Obama pledges to expand Bush's aid to religious charities
Though President George W. Bush's "faith-based initiatives" - which give government money to religious groups for charity work - have been one of the most controversial programs of his presidency, Barack Obama has pledged to expand them if he is elected president. This decision is likely to irk many Democrats and civil liberties groups who believe the program infringes on the principle of seperation of church and state. As Obama positions himself to the center now that the primary season is over, he runs the risk of alienating his core liberal supporters, particularly those who supported Clinton during the primary.
Barack Obama pledged Tuesday to expand a controversial White House program that funnels federal money to religious charities, embracing a core piece of President Bush's legacy as he tries to win over Republican-leaning evangelical voters.
The presumed Democratic presidential nominee said he would make it easier for churches and small community groups to win grants and would spend $500 million to help schools and churches run summer reading programs.
Obama delivered his speech at the Eastside Community Ministry in this key battleground state, home to many of the religious voters who backed Bush. With his proposal, the Illinois senator embraced a theme that has been closely associated with Republicans -- and one that has drawn scorn from many Democrats and civil liberties groups who believe it infringes church-state separation.
"I know there are some who bristle at the notion that faith has a place in the public square," Obama said. "But the fact is, leaders in both parties have recognized the value of a partnership between the White House and faith-based groups."
Obama, who worked for a Roman Catholic group as a community organizer in Chicago in the early 1980s, said the "challenges we face today -- from saving our planet to ending poverty -- are simply too big for government to solve alone."