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(RNS) The 25-member council advising the White House on faith-based issues has voted on two contentious issues for religious charities that receive government funds.
By a vote of 13-12, the council members said the government should require houses of worship to form separate corporations in order to receive direct federal funding for social services.
Separately, when asked whether the government should permit charities to offer social services in rooms containing religious art, symbols, messages or scripture, 16 said yes, two said no, and seven said they should be permitted if no other space is available.
Melissa Rogers, chair of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said the votes will be included in a forthcoming report for President Obama.
“There are also a few issues that we address in the report that were … nonconsensus issues,” said Rogers. “That’s what those votes represent.”
Rogers said the votes and the report reflect recommendations the council will be making to Obama. “The council advises,” she said. “The administration decides.”
The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has questioned the appropriateness of including members who work for charities that receive government funds to vote on the council.
“Wouldn’t this be a conflict of interest by any ethical standard?” he wrote in an online column.
— Adelle M. Banks
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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