Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama campaigns in the battleground state of Ohio Tuesday to announce plans to expand and overhaul President Bush’s faith-based programs as part of his bid to appeal to evangelical voters and build his community service platform.
Obama was unveiling his proposal to get religious charities more involved in anti-poverty programs during a tour and remarks in Zanesville, Ohio’s Eastside Community Ministry, which provides food, clothes, youth ministry and other services, according to the Associated Press.
“The challenges we face today … are simply too big for government to solve alone,” Obama planned to say, according to prepared remarks obtained by the AP. “We need all hands on deck.”
“I’m not saying that faith-based groups are an alternative to government or secular nonprofits, and I’m not saying that they’re somehow better at lifting people up,” he would say, according to the Washington Post. “What I’m saying is that we all have to work together — Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim, believer and non-believer alike — to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
As part of his revamped policy proposal, Obama would not support requiring religious tests for aid recipients or use of federal money to proselytize, according to a campaign fact sheet. The proposal would provide $500 million a year to faith-based groups nationwide.
Obama would call the new organization the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He also plans to criticize the Bush administration’s support of programs for the poor and needy, Politico reported.
The relationship between the White House and grassroots groups “has to be a real partnership — not a photo-op,” Obama was expected to say.
The focus on faith-based programs is a starting point for the Obama camp’s larger plans to reach out to Christian conservatives and evangelicals, a voting bloc that historically leans Republican.
“Between now and November, the Obama forces are planning as many as 1,000 house parties and dozens of Christian rock concerts, gatherings of religious leaders, campus visits and telephone conference calls to bring together voters of all ages motivated by their faith to engage in politics,” the New York Times reported.
The Bush administration’s support of faith-based programs generated debate during President Bush’s freshman year in the White House over accusations that certain groups were favored for funding or that funding was shifted to untested religiously affiliated groups.
Obama’s Tuesday speech is part of a series of events focused on American values leading up to Friday’s Fourth of July holiday, which Obama plans to spend in the red state of Montana.