May 12, 2010

International Groups Urge Obama to Ease Giving Restrictions

More than 30 nonprofit organizations wrote to President Obama today urging him to ease antiterrorism restrictions that the groups say hinder legitimate charitable giving and aid work abroad.

The organizations -- which include American Jewish World Service, the Charity and Security Network, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council -- reminded Mr. Obama of a statement he made last June in Cairo in which he said that some charitable rules have made giving difficult for American Muslims and that he would work with them to help fulfill their religious obligation to donate.

"While the speech was in the context of U.S. relations with the Muslim world, the problems you cited adversely impact all kinds of charities, humanitarian aid groups, grant makers, and donors," the organizations wrote.

Among the problems they cited: harassment of donors by law-enforcement officials; absence of clear standards for designating charities as terrorist organizations; overly restrictive rules about when aid can be delivered in conflict zones; absence of due process for groups suspected of terrorist ties; and the indefinite freezing of those groups' assets.

The organizations said that they had suggestions for how to resolve those problems and hoped to begin a discussion with the government on possible changes.