All posts from “Joshua DuBois”

October 21, 2011

D.C. Pastor Derrick Harkins to Lead Democrats' Faith Outreach

As President Obama gears up his re-election campaign, the Democratic National Committee has tapped a well-connected Washington pastor to lead the party's religious outreach.

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The Rev. Derrick Harkins is senior pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, one of Washington's oldest historically black churches, where Obama and his family worshipped right before his inauguration.

Harkins is also a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals, a nationwide umbrella group, and Faith in Public Life, a liberal strategy center. Earlier this month, Obama hosted NAE leaders at the White House.

"I have every expectation that people of faith will be a key part of a successful election for Democrats in 2012," Harkins said in a statement on Thursday (Oct. 20). The pastor added that he will attempt to engage religious Americans on immigration reform, Obama's new health care law and the role of religion in public life.

Joshua DuBois, who currently directs the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, ran religious outreach for Obama's 2008 campaign and helped him gain a larger percentage of Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants and evangelicals than Sen. John Kerry's 2004 campaign. As a federally commissioned officer, DuBois now is barred from some campaign activities, including fundraising.

Harkins is stepping into a role the DNC left empty during the 2010 midterm campaign, an absence that some party insiders blamed for large swaths of religious voters turning to the GOP.

Burns Strider, one of those critical voices, praised Harkins' appointment on Thursday.

"We fail in our politics and causes when we fail to dialogue with and build relationships in our faith communities," Strider, who led faith outreach for Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, said in a statement. "Derrick has a deep and profound understanding and respect for these communities."

Patrick Gaspard, Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee, said Harkins' hiring "should be a clear sign to everyone that Democrats will be making our case to voters motivated by their faith and values in 2012."

March 9, 2010

Faith-based Panel Submits Recommendations

A White House advisory council on today submitted 164 pages of recommendations on ways the federal government can better partner with faith-based groups in tackling a host of social problems, from poverty to improving interfaith relations.

Still, some of the thorniest issues surrounding public-private partnerships -- especially legal questions of discrimination in hiring -- remain unsolved after White House officials decided early on they would not be included in the panel's portfolio.

Administration officials, however, promised that the 25-member panel's suggestions will not suffer the fate of countless blue-ribbon commissions.

"It won't just be a document on a shelf," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "I promise you this document will become an active action plan in the Department of Health and Human Services."

Sebelius, one of several officials who met with the President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said she hopes to work with churches and other community organizations on a range of issues, including how to continue free-lunch programs for needy students during school vacations.

The 25 members of the council, which included representatives of national faith-based and secular charities, finished their one-year term with a 164-page report that included more than 60 specific recommendations.

Melissa Rogers, chair of the council, said the diverse panelists were able to reach common ground beyond the "lowest common denominator," and will remain available as the administration considers how, or if, to implement the recommendations.

"Whether it's been through press statements, books or sermons, all of us have been trying to tell the government what to do for years," she said, "but we've rarely received a White House invitation to make a list of recommendations."

President Obama met with council-members in the White House after they concluded their final meeting. New members of the council, who also will have a one-year term, are expected to be named soon.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson told the council that she is open to their recommendations to create faith-based and community-based liaisons in regional EPA offices and to sponsor a public education campaign on the environment.

"We're taking for granted the fact that people know in this day and age how important it is," Jackson said. "We probably need to remind them that the abundance we're fighting to save is their heritage. It is a heritage they got from God."

The council was formed after President Obama announced in February 2009 that he would revamp, but keep open, the former White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Initiatives that he inherited from President George W. Bush.

Their recommendations came in six different areas, including reform of the renamed White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. They suggest increased guidance so religious organizations use federal funds while respecting the separation of church and state.

Continue reading Faith-based Panel Submits Recommendations ...

March 2, 2010

White House Faith-Based Council Adopts Recommendations

After a year's work, a White House advisory council on faith-based programs adopted dozens of recommendations on February 26 on everything from church-state separation to fighting poverty and promoting fatherhood.

The 25-member advisory council also called for reforms to the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to help protect "religious liberty rights."

"The recommendations call ... for greater clarity in the church-state guidance given to social service providers so that tax funds are used appropriately and providers are not confused or sued," the panel's report said.

"The recommendations also insist that beneficiaries must be notified of their religious liberty rights, including their rights to alternative providers."

The advisory panel, which will submit its final report on March 9, also urged the Obama administration to ensure that "decisions about government grants are made on the merits of proposals, not on political or religious considerations."

Among the panel's 64 recommendations, advisers voiced support for:

Continue reading White House Faith-Based Council Adopts Recommendations...

March 25, 2009

Conservatives Talk Abortion Reduction with White House

Leaders from several prominent conservative Christian groups met Tuesday with the head of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to discuss ways to reduce abortions.

Concerned Women for America President Wendy Wright sought the meeting with Joshua DuBois, executive director of the revamped White House office.

"It was cordial and there's an opportunity for future meetings," Wright said after the meeting, which lasted more than half an hour. "He did seem interested in the kinds of programs that are helping women and children."

Conservative Christian groups have criticized the Obama administration for early policy actions such as opening federal funding to embryonic stem cell research and international family planning groups, and moving to rescind conscience protections for health care workers.

Wright, who called the freedom of conscience "fundamental to the American way of life," said she brought up the conscience issue with DuBois and several White House staffers who attended the meeting. They also discussed programs that encourage men to be good fathers.

Continue reading Conservatives Talk Abortion Reduction with White House...

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.