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Obama: AP Gets It Wrong

Earlier in the day, the AP wrote:

Obama does not support requiring religious tests for recipients of aid nor using federal money to proselytize, according to a campaign fact sheet. He also only supports letting religious institutions hire and fire based on faith in the non-taxypayer funded portions of their activities, said a senior adviser to the campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity to more freely describe the new policy.

But then…

UPDATE: An Obama campaign official told the Huffington Post that the AP’s claims about Obama allowing hiring or firing based on faith are false. From a portion of Obama’s speech today:

“Now, make no mistake, as someone who used to teach constitutional law, I believe deeply in the separation of church and state, but I don’t believe this partnership will endanger that idea – so long as we follow a few basic principles. First, if you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion. Second, federal dollars that go directly to churches, temples, and mosques can only be used on secular programs. And we’ll also ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to those programs that actually work.”

This is a big deal.  Former faith-based deputy director under President Bush (and now critic of Bush), David Kuo, had this to say about the hiring and firing:

David Kuo, a conservative Christian who was deputy director of Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives until 2003 and later became a critic of Bush’s commitment to the cause, said Obama’s position on hiring has the potential to be a major “Sister Souljah moment” for his campaign.
This is a reference to Bill Clinton’s accusation in his 1992 presidential campaign that the hip hop artist incited violence against whites. Because Clinton said this before a black audience, it fed into an image of him as a bold politician who was willing to take risks and refused to pander.
“This is a massive deal,” said Kuo, who is not an Obama adviser or supporter but was contacted by the campaign to review the new plan.

Without the “hiring and firing” proviso, this plan looks more likely to add money to the non-secular programs Obama was talking about in his speech. AP says that Kuo reviewed the Obama plan.  It would be great to hear from Kuo if the “hiring and firing” was in the version he reviewed or was this a mistake from a staffer who talked to Obama earlier in the day.
If “hiring and firing” isn’t in the new plan, however, I wonder how much this dampens support for the overall plan.  Andrew Sullivan, for one, referred to that specific passage in his analysis of it earlier today.


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