January 28, 2009
Report: Obama Plans to Pick Pastor for Faith-Based Initiatives Position
President Obama plans to tap Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor and director of religious outreach for the campaign, to direct the office of faith-based initiatives, according to The New York Times.
Reporter Laurie Goodstein writes that DuBois consulted with dozens of religious and charity groups about the faith-based office.
The most contentious issue that Mr. DuBois will have to help resolve is whether Mr. Obama should rescind a Bush administration legal memorandum that allows religious groups that receive government money to hire only those who share their faith.
Mr. Obama said in a campaign speech last June, "If you get a federal grant, you can't use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion."
Dan Gilgoff has also written about the meetings with religious leaders during the transition period. Gilgoff recently wrote that the people continuing on with the administration will include DuBois, Mara Vanderslice, and Mark Linton.
DuBois played a large role in the campaign on the religion front, often keeping in regular touch with people like Jim Wallis, Joel Hunter, and Donald Miller. I heard hints of his appointment when I spoke with several religious leaders last week, including Hunter who said that DuBois had an active relationships with many in religious leadership.
From my perspective his credibility has grown, he has several good assistants now, his confidence has grown. He's always been very responsive to me. I do think this is one of those things that you kind of grow into. You go along and learn and if you pick up and start to become conversant with several religious leaders then you gain confidence and credibility, and I think that's what's happening with Joshua.
DuBois faced some large challenges in the campaign, first when false rumors flew that Obama is a Muslim and then when YouTube videos of Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright emerged. Overall, he could be attributed to helping shrink the so-called God Gap, as Steve Waldman wrote after the election.
For more on DuBois, Michael Paulson wrote one of the best profiles for the Boston Globe last summer.
I watched DuBois work at the Democratic National Convention in August. He was very energetic, eager to network with any and every religious leader, but very cautious with the press. Everything we talked about had to go through a public relations team. When I first worked on a story on the Democrats' faith outreach, it took me several weeks to reach him. After I mentioned this problem to a source, I got a call very quickly.
"I'm certainly not a theologian, but there are fundamentals I know to be true. The foundations of my faith are in Jesus Christ and in his teachings, especially addressing the needs of the least of these," DuBois said. "That's certainly a model for me, and that's how I'm hoping to approach my work on the campaign."
DuBois said that while Obama's personal faith (Obama is a member of a United Church of Christ congregation in Chicago) shapes his approach to issues, the senator is a firm believer that church and state should be separated.
"Our democracy demands that when people are religiously motivated," DuBois said, "you have to translate your [policy] concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values. We're no longer just a Christian nation; we're also a Jewish nation, a Hindu nation, a Muslim nation, and a nation that does not adhere to a particular religion."
DuBois always seemed very eager to appeal to every religious group. Now the only thing left to do is get all religions to agree on a universal value.