President Obama’s executive order affirming the White House faith-based office, which was issued yesterday, reflects recommendations made by the President’s Advisory Council, as well as comments from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The statement of administration principles clarifies federal rules protecting both religious groups that receive federal grants and beneficiaries of government-funded services.

“Faith-based social service organizations are deeply rooted in our communities and often serve our most vulnerable citizens of all religions and none,” said Galen Carey, NAE’s Director of Government Affairs. “The government is right to partner with faith-based organizations that have expertise in solving community problems, such as hunger, poverty, homelessness and drug addiction. We welcome the President’s order, which builds on policies and good practices developed over three administrations of both political parties.”

The executive order reaffirms the constitutionality of the legal principle that the government should treat religious and secular organizations on an equal basis as they compete for federal funding. Faith-based organizations can compete for funding based on the quality of their programs “without impairing their independence, autonomy, expression … or religious character,” according to the executive order.

The executive order affirms that grant recipients are not required to strip religious symbols from spaces where federally funded services are offered, nor remove religious language from its name. It stresses that service organizations must provide beneficiaries with written information about their religious rights and choices. As in the past, referrals are required to other service providers if the beneficiary objects to services from a faith-based provider. The order calls for government agencies to post online rules concerning participation by religious organizations, as well as lists of federal grant recipients.

The NAE is pleased to see the executive order’s affirmation of the religious rights of both recipients of services and faith-based providers of services.