By Philip Timothy & Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writers
ALEXANDRIA – By relying on God’s providence through the Cooperative Program, Louisiana Baptist entities and charitable organizations are not expected to feel the impact of an Obama Administration executive order like other faith-based groups in the United States.
President Barack Obama’s signing of executive order 13671 on July 21, 2014 would force faith-based organizations and charities receiving federal funding or grants to hire LGBT applicants or lose their funding.
“God has given the church, not the government, the task of caring for people in need,” said Perry Hancock, president and CEO of the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home. “Therefore, God’s people should be the source for funding His work.”
Hancock emphasized the Children’s Home does not accept any type of federal funding, instead relying on gifts from the Cooperative Program and private donors for its funding.
“We should be cautious of entering into agreements which limit our sharing of the gospel,” said Hancock. “I come from an evangelical/Southern Baptist faith tradition which emphasizes sharing a verbal witness. We do not want to be in a position where we limit our ability to share the good news of Christ.”
The order prohibits discrimination in the civilian federal workforce on the basis of gender identity and in the hiring by federal contractors on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.
Faith-based groups are not exempt from Obama’s executive order but the news has less impact on such groups because there are far fewer faith-based contract recipients than grant recipients according to Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam).
The White House has directed federal agencies to include “sexual orientation and gender identity” as protected classes in all grant agreements.
According to Jeff Cook, the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Compassion Ministry Strategist, “Some feeding ministries have received commodity food items from government sources,” he said. “The rule is … you cannot give out government food that is tied to a required ministry presentation or event.
“Churches attempt to work around it by offering ministry or inviting ministry and most accept bible study or prayer, etc.,” said Cook, “however, more and more ministries are moving away from government support because it has become increasingly difficult to work within the government’s restrictions.”
This isn’t good news for the world’s poor and needy said Austin Ruse, president of C-Fam.
“Many religious groups will have no choice but to forego government funding and perhaps close their doors permanently,” Ruse told the Christian Examiner in a June 3 article. “Such a policy change will hit hardest in the most desperate part of the world – Africa – where they don’t have the luxury to indulge in these new Western ideas of sexuality. They’re too busy just trying to stay alive.”
The order is expected to produce a dramatic impact closer to home.
“Faith-based organizations are providing assistance in communities across America, such as adoption, youth centers, child care and development programs, youth counseling, shelters, and much, much more,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, told the Examiner.
“… Christian organizations cannot offer biblical counseling and, at the same, hire people who do not follow the Bible and their doctrinal positions on human sexuality,” Stave continued. “Ultimately, this LGBT regulation is going to cause irreparable harm to the children and the needy.
“This is just another example of the Obama Administration’s hostility toward people of faith and biblical values,” Staver said. “Obama is now using funding to force his immoral agenda on religious organizations.”
Faith-based groups could fight back in the courts by claiming their rights are being violated under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – a 1993 federal law – but such a move could end up being both costly and time-consuming said C-Fam.
“Success would be far from certain,” the organization said.
Some federal agencies “are hesitant to make the change,” but due to pressure from the White House “are reluctant to say no,” C-Fam continued.