May 14, 2018
The Trump administration has been particularly busy over the past few weeks in its efforts to breach the wall of separation between church and state and throwing LGBTQ and nonreligious Americans under the bus, and all while bestowing legitimacy on medical pseudoscience. A new version of the problematic “faith-based initiatives” office opens the door for religious groups to take in federal funds without serving the public equally, and a new version of the president’s physical fitness council has been weakened with the inclusion of a snake oil salesman.
On the National Day of Prayer on May 3, an event that is already fraught with constitutional problems to say the least, President Trump announced an executive order establishing a new White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative, his take on the “faith-based initiatives” of his predecessors, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
The Bush and Obama versions of this office were of central concern to secularism advocates, as they allowed religious institutions to receive taxpayer funds for the performance of secular community services. But the program was plagued by a lack of transparency, and there were no guarantees that a religious groups receiving federal aid would not discriminated in hiring.
On top of these serious problems, the Trump administration has added to the confusion by removing the requirement that federally-funded faith-based organizations refer beneficiaries to an alternate, secular provider. This means that nonreligious Americans will be kept in the dark about services that do not involve religion, and groups such as LGBTQ Americans and religious minorities could be denied services they need, even as their taxes go to fund the very groups that would turn them away. See our formal statement condemning this executive order.
The next day, the Trump administration took a positive and informative program, the White House Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, and covered it in a cloud of medical misinformation. Tasked with educating Americans, particularly kids, about making healthy lifestyle choices through physical activity and good nutrition, the Council will now include a peddler of pseudoscience and fake medicine with the appointment of Dr. Mehmet Oz. Rather than promote evidence-based health choices, Oz is known for hawking snake oil and profiting off of Americans’ fears and confusion over health and medicine.
In CFI’s formal statement, we called the appointment “abysmal,” and urged the administration to rescind the appointment. But we won’t be holding our breath.