Pew has a new study out on faith-based social service provision, and the striking news is that, although Americans continue to support (by wide margins) allowing faith-based groups to apply for government funding, they remain very separationist in how they want those groups to behave. Thus, by a 68-27 margin they believe “religious charities” should be eligible for government funds, but oppose eligibility for “groups that encourage religious conversion” by 63-28.
And on the major bone of contention–permitting government-funded groups to “limit hiring to those who share their religious beliefs”–Americans are opposed by better than three-to-one, 74 percent to 21 percent. Pew puts a slight gloss on that number by pointing out that “relatively large numbers” of Republicans and white evangelicals support such hiring, but “relatively” ain’t much: It’s 62-32 against among Republicans and 61-33 against among white evangelicals. Let it be noted that Obama himself took a firm position against such faith-based hiring during the presidential campaign.
Under the circumstances, you’ve got to wonder why the Obama administration is being so incredibly gingerly about dealing with the issue. Yes, it involves more legal complexity than lay citizens understand. And there are some moderate evangelical faith-based enthusiasts that the administration wants to cuddle with. Still, when you’ve got over 60 percent of the other side in your corner on an issue, it shouldn’t be hard to get the thing done. It’s way past time for the Office of Legal Counsel, where it’s currently languishing, to make with a set of rules.