February 6, 2009
Vision Cast for Faith-Based Office
So far, I have two stories from my time in Washington on the faith-based initiatives.
I spoke with the new director of the Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua DuBois. Nearly every story about him pointed out his young age: 26. However, DuBois played a large role in the campaign running Obama's faith outreach, so it will be interesting to see how important the office becomes during Obama's term.
In our interview, DuBois outlined three key ways the office is different from the one President George W. Bush set up:
The previous initiative was largely focused on leveling the playing field and making sure these groups had access to federal agencies and federal resources, and that's really important. President Obama thinks that now it's time to set an overarching mission for the office, so that's one key difference.
The second difference is structurally, we're creating this new policy council. We heard a lot that in the previous office, information went out but there weren't ways to give formal feedback to the federal government, and that's what this council allows us to do.
And the third way it's different is more strength in legal and constitutional footing.
I also wrote a story addressing the issue of whether groups can discriminate based on faith in their hiring practices. I spoke with Doug Koopman, co-author of a book on Bush's office, who was concerned about how the office has set new priorities rather than receiving them from the organizations. Joel Hunter and Jim Wallis, two members of the council, told me about the executive order yesterday. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention explained why he has mixed feelings about the office. Amy Black, co-author with Koopman told me how she thinks this will be different from Bush's faith-based office.