By William Wan
Obama’s faith council is finalizing its draft report this week, and one of the key debates that emerged from the phone conference yesterday was whether there should be rules requiring religious groups to cover up religious symbols if they receive federal funding for services. For example, if a church gets money for a soup kitchen, would it have to remove or put a cloth over all crosses, pictures, etc., every time it gets ready to feed the hungry?
That sparked a lively debate among council members that largely dominated yesterday’s two-hour teleconference. Melissa Rogers, director of Wake Forest’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs, who is leading the group tasked with solving such church-state issues laid ouit three possibilities the council could recommend:
1. Making such religious icons not allowed for federally funded services.
2. Allowing it only if no other religious neutral rooms are available and covering up such icons is impratical.
3. Not requiring removal of such icons but encouraging religious orgs to be sensitive about the issue.
That led to a lengthy debate from which no clear consensus emerged. As the council’s various taskforces finish up their reports, some thorny issues like this look like they’ll require footnotes or majority/minority opinion sections (ala supreme court).
The other significant news that emerged from the teleconference yesterday was that Rogers has been chosen by the group to be its official chairwoman and to coordinate the finalizing of the final report as the various taskforces wrap up their work.