By BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman
Years ago, the BJC produced bright blue stickers that said “Religious Liberty! The original faith-based initiative.” People loved them. It was a succinct reminder of our foundational principles prepared in response to confusing and controversial executive action. At the time, President George W. Bush was promising to expand the role of religious organizations in government-funded programs. He was also creating government offices dedicated to promoting what came to be known as the “faith-based initiative.” As the initiative has changed and shifted focus through the Bush and Obama presidencies, it has provided religious liberty lessons and continuing challenges for the future.
The BJC responded with more than stickers, of course. We care about how the institutions of government and religion interact, especially when it comes to financial entanglements, which we know can harm both. Guided by first principles, including guarding church-state separation as an essential means for protecting religious liberty, we warned against “the wrong way to do right.”
Our advocacy during the Bush era was a continuation of efforts the decade before. We were early critics of “charitable choice,” a legislative proposal inserted into a handful of social services laws aimed at increasing participation of religious organizations …read more