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Overview:

The Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, formerly the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, was established by President George W. Bush just nine days after he took office in January 2001. The office is part of the Executive Office of the President, responsible for expanding the opportunities for faith-based and community organizations to receive federal funding. Through these faith-based and community organizations, the federal government can award grants through 11 agencies and provide social services to individuals. These agencies include the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, Agriculture, Commerce and Veterans Affairs, plus the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Small Business Administration. 

 

There is a traditional belief in the United States that the U.S. Constitution prohibits the use of federal funds to promote religion, and that organizations and programs that receive federal funding are not allowed to use religion as a criterion for choosing employees or beneficiaries. President Bush’s effort to have religious organizations more involved in government-supported social programs has drawn considerable criticism from libertarians and others claiming the initiative violates the basic tenet of church-state separation.

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History:

On August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed a welfare reform law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, that included a provision, Section 104, which allowed the states to use federal funds to hire religious groups to provide social services. This provision, known as the “Charitable Choice” provision, also gave religious groups that receive federal grants the right to display religious symbols, scripture and icons while delivering government social services. In December, George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas, became the first governor to order these new standards to be used on a state level. Nine days after his inauguration as president of the United States, Bush, by executive order, created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (WHOFBCI). He also ordered audits of various government departments to identify rules and regulations that barred religious groups from delivering social services. The subsequent report, Unlevel Playing Field, incorrectly stated that religious groups were banned from taking part in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program. In fact, two-thirds of the program’s sponsors were religious organizations. The report also incorrectly claimed that no faith-based organization received funding for HUD’s Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, when, in reality, the faith-based group Habitat for Humanity International received more than half of the program’s funding in fiscal year 2000.

 

“A little bit frustrated” with congressional delays in passing a law that supported his initiative, Bush, in December 2002, issued a new set of executive orders to stop what he said was discrimination against religious groups obtaining government contracts. “I did it on my own,” he boasted on March 3, 2004. These orders gave religious organizations funded by the government the right to give employment preference to members of their own religion and they exempted these groups from rules that forbid religious discrimination. At the time, Bush explained, “No government policy can put hope in people’s hearts or a sense of purpose in people’s lives.”

 

The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives was created as the result of these Executive Orders:

 

  • Executive Order 13199 created the White House Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives on January 29, 2001.
  • Executive Order 13198 created five Centers for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives on January 29, 2001.
  • Executive Order 13280 created two Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives on December 12, 2002.
  • Executive Order 13279 requires equal protection for faith-based and community organizations as of December 12, 2002.
  • Executive Order 13342 created three new Centers for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives at the Departments of Commerce and Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration on June 1, 2004.
  • Executive Order 13397 created a new Center for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives at the Department of Homeland Security on March 7, 2006.
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What it Does:

The Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships oversees programs throughout the federal government that seek to direct government opportunities for faith-based social services organizations. The federal government awards grants through 11 agencies to faith-based and community organizations. Participating federal agencies are the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, Agriculture, Commerce and Veterans Affairs, plus the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Small Business Administration.

 

According to President Bush’s wishes, the office is responsible for opening up the competitive federal grant-making process. These agencies have adopted several methods of making this possible, by making information more accessible, providing training and technical assistance, broadening program eligibility, changing regulations, and streamlining grant applications. Additionally, the White House hosts regional conferences and workshops to support faith-based and community social service programs. These events provide participants with information about the government grants process and available funding opportunities and an overview of the legal responsibilities that come with the receipt of federal funds.

 

As a Democratic candidate for President, Barack Obama expressed support for the office, drawing complaints from those who believe these programs discriminate based on faith and raise questions on the separation of church and state. As President, Obama followed through with his campaign pledge to expand the office—calling for increased federal spending and a larger agenda—and change its name to the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He appointed as the office’s new director Joshua DuBois, a Pentecostal minister and former religious affairs director for the Obama presidential campaign. DeBois’s stated mission was to coordinate social service outreach with faith-based organizations, focusing primarily on poverty. Obama also established within the office an Advisory Council composed of 25 religious and secular leaders and scholars from varying backgrounds. Each member of the Council is appointed to a one-year term. The Council’s agenda has included climate change, human trafficking, military conflicts, and the need to reduce abortions.

 

President Obama established four key priorities for the office:

 

 

The Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships publishes several written resources to assist grassroots groups in navigating the federal grants system. These include Federal Funds for Organizations That Help Those In Need (pdf) (a catalog of federal grant opportunities), Guidance to Faith-Based and Community Organizations on Partnering with the Federal Government (pdf) (a guide to the legal responsibilities associated with the receipt of federal funds), and Protecting the Civil Rights and Religious Liberty of Faith-Based Organizations (pdf) (outlines the protection of religious hiring rights).

 

Some of the featured programs of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships include:

 

Compassion Capital Fund, which serves as a bridge between the federal government and faith-based and community organizations. Intermediary organizations provide technical assistance and capacity-building sub-awards.

 

Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program, which makes competitive grants to applicants serving populations with substantial numbers of children of incarcerated parents and to support the establishment and operation of mentoring programs.

 

Access to Recovery (ATR), which is a three-year competitive discretionary grant program funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. ATR provides vouchers to clients for the purchase of substance abuse clinical treatment and recovery support services.

 

US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which works with international, national and local leaders worldwide to support prevention, treatment, and care programs.

 

 

The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which is an initiative that encourages institutions of higher education to commit to a year of interfaith and community service programming on campus.

 

The National Conversation on Responsible Fatherhood and Strong Communities, which launched a national fatherhood tour to hear from local communities about how we can encourage personal responsibility and strengthen our nation’s families.

 

The agency’s partnership with the White House Council on Women and Girls, which seeks to support women and children, reduce unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and reduce the need for abortion.

 

Of Little Faith: The Politics of George W. Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives by Black, Koopman and Ryden

Advisory Council’s Report on Recommendations to the President (pdf)

 

From the Web Site of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

 

Advisory Council

Blog Posts

Contact the Office

Directory of Federal Centers

Grants and Resources

Interfaith Service Challenge

Policy Goals

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Where Does the Money Go:

As of 2010, more than $22 billion per year was distributed by the federal government to more than 50 programs supporting education, community development, basic nutrition, and other social services. In 2007, the federal government provided more than 19,000 direct, competitive awards to American nonprofit organizations to aid the homeless, at-risk youth, recovering addicts, returning offenders, people infected of affected by HIV/AIDS, and others. These grants totaled more than $15.3 billion. Faith-based organizations won more than 3,200 grants in 2007, totaling over $2.2 billion.

 

For fiscal year 2005, more than $2.2 billion in competitive social service grants were awarded to faith-based organizations. Between fiscal years 2003 and 2005, the total dollar amount of all grants awarded to FBOs increased by 21%. The majority of these grants were distributed through state agencies to local organizations in the form of formula grants.

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Controversies:

Obama Council Appointments

Some religious leaders expressed disappointment in 2011 over President Barack Obama’s selections for his advisory council on faith-based programs. Critics complained too many leaders of Christian and Jewish faiths were selected, leaving out those who practice Islam or Hinduism. The White House responded by saying Obama would choose more panel members at a later date.

 

By 2012, the faith-based panel was vacant. The second round of promised appointments never materialized, “and the panel basically faded into the woodwork,” according to Rick Cohen at Nonprofit Quarterly. Cohen added that it seemed like Obama wasn’t taking the panel very seriously.

 

A few months later, Obama indicated he was still interested in faith-based initiatives and released a series of recommendations for reforming the program.

Obama's Faith-Based Advisers: Round Two (by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service)

President Obama’s Faith-Based Council Drops Out of Sight (by Rick Cohen, Nonprofit Quarterly)

Obama’s Faith-Based Failure (by Sarah Posner, Salon)

 

Council’s Director and Obama Reject Removal of “Under God”

Through the head of his Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, President Barack Obama rejected demands in 2011 from atheists to remove “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

Joshua DuBois, the office’s executive director, responded to a petition calling for the removal of “Under God” by saying Obama supports the religious rights of all Americans as well as the separation of church and state.

 

But, DuBois added, the president also believes religion plays an important role in public life, which is why he wants to keep “Under God” in place. He also supports having “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency, DuBois said.

The White House Responds to Petition to Remove ‘Under God’ from Pledge of Allegiance (by Hermant Mehta, Friendly Atheist)

White House Responds To Marijuana and God Petitions (Nextgov)

Obama Supports Forcing Atheists’ Kids To Pledge Oaths To God (by Peregrin Wood, Irregular Times)

 

Obama Accused of Using the Council for His Own Agenda

Conservatives have repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama claiming he has used the Office of Faith-based Initiatives and Neighborhood Partnerships to further his political agenda.

 

The Weekly Standard accused of Obama of attempting to use the office as a “mechanism for nationwide community organizing.” The American Thinker claimed Obama intended to use the office to turn the American people against Israel.

 

Along these lines, a task force charged in 2009 with coming up with recommendations for the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships said it should “create a working group of multi-religious and community organizations focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to advise administration officials at the National Security Council and the State Department on a just resolution of the conflict.”

 

Still other conservatives believed Obama would link the office to his “radical” environmental policies in order to push “global warming, climate change, and green initiatives on America’s churches,” according to Hyscience.

Obama Abuses Faith Office To Promote His Radical Agenda (by Ed Lasky, American Thinker)

Faith-Based Obama (Washington Post Op-Ed)

Obama Using Faith-Based Programs To Push Ideology Of Global Warming, Climate Change, Green Issues (Hyscience)

Faith-Based Reform Veers Into Israeli Policy (by Rebecca Dube, The Jewish Daily Forward)

 

Stimulus Funds Went to Religious Groups

Conservatives branded President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan anti-religious. Little did they know that faith-based organizations would be among those that received funding from the billion-dollar program.

 

Of the $787 billion allocated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, at least $140 million went to faith-based groups. In fact, the Obama administration didn’t just make stimulus funds available to religious organizations—it encouraged them to apply for the grants.

 

Federal agencies conducted outreach to faith-based groups and explained how to apply for the grants. Sometimes, federal officials “stepped in when the state officials who distribute the money were reluctant to spend it on groups associated with churches and other religious establishments,” according to Politico.

Obama's Stimulus Pours Millions Into Faith-Based Groups (by Ben Smith and Byron Tau, Politico)

Is the Stimulus Act Anti-Religious? (by Tobin Grant, Christianity Today)

 

Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Raises Constitutional Issues

When President George W. Bush created the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, critics pointed out that millions in federal grants have gone to ministries operated by political supporters of the Bush administration or have been given to minority pastors who recently committed their support. Others claimed that legitimate faith-based groups like Pagans and Sikhs were excluded, while other religions like Christianity were more readily funded. On June 25, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation that executive orders may not be challenged on Establishment Clause grounds by individuals whose sole claim to legal standing is that they are taxpayers. Both of Bush’s appointees to the court, John G. Roberts and Samuel Alito, sided with the majority.

Religion for Captive Audiences, With Taxpayers Footing the Bill (by Diana B. Henriques and Andrew Lehren, New York Times)

Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation (Oyez)

 

Faith-Based Director Resigns After Controversy-Riddled Reign

In April 2006, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, H. James Towey, resigned to become President of St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania. Towey, who had served as legal counsel to Mother Theresa of Calcutta for 12 years, led efforts to implement 16 regulations designed to lift roadblocks to federal agency funding of religious organizations. Those administrative changes marked a major shift in the separation of church and state, as noted in a report by the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, “The Expanding Administrative Presidency: George W. Bush and the Faith-Based Initiative.” (pdf)

Religious Watchdog Group Calls for Closing of Faith-Based Office (by Melanie Hunter,

cnsnews.com)

 

Former Faith-Based Employee Reveals All in Book

David Kuo, a former member of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, revealed in his 2006 book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, that the program was used for political purposes, and that the President did not fulfill his promises to put enough money into the initiative. Kuo revealed that the Bush administration used evangelical Christians to win votes, but then privately ridiculed them once in office, saying, “National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ridiculous, out of control, and just plain goofy.” In particular, Kuo quotes Karl Rove, the President’s long-serving political adviser and mentor, as describing evangelical Christians as “nuts.” The White House rejected the claims.

Aide says White House mocked evangelicals (by Julian Borger, The Guardian)

 

Department of Homeland Security Receives Office of Faith-Based Initiatives

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, President George W. Bush added another office of faith-based initiatives in the Department of Homeland Security. Though many believed that this was another excuse for the federal government to funnel more than $2 billion to religious organizations, others argued that the government was using disasters like Hurricane Katrina to preach to people in order to receive help.

DHS Gets New Faith-Based Office (by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, Fox News)

 

Obama Wants to Continue Bush's Faith-Based Programs

As the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, in an attempt to reach out to conservative voters, said he wanted to expand President George W. Bush’s faith-based programs, drawing complaints from those who believe these programs discriminate based on faith and raise questions on the separation of church and state. Obama’s plan was to get religious charities more involved in government anti-poverty programs. He does not approve using religious preferences in the hiring and firing of employees, nor the using federal money to proselytize. Obama proposed renaming it the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, moving away from hosting large conferences, and empowering larger religious charities to mentor smaller ones in their communities. He also proposed a $500 million per year program to provide summer learning for one million poor children to help close achievement gaps with white and wealthier students.

Obama wants to expand faith-based programs (Associated Press)

Obama Wants to Expand Role of Religious Groups (by Jeff Zeleny and Brian Knowlton, New York Times)

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Suggested Reforms:

Greater Transparency and Other Reforms

 

President Barack Obama signed an executive order in November 2011 that reformed the Office of Faith-based Initiatives and Neighborhood Partnerships to improve transparency and clarify rules for religious groups that receive federal grants.

 

Among the changes were ways to strengthen the constitutional and legal footing of public-private partnerships, to clarify prohibited uses of direct financial assistance, to protect the religious identity of faith-based clients, and to assure the religious liberty rights of clients and beneficiaries of federal social service funds.

 

The executive order did not address controversial questions regarding whether grant recipients can hire and fire based on religion. The administration chose instead to deal with those questions on a case-by-case basis.

 

The following year, the White House issued another report that sought to address public/private partnerships between the government and faith-based groups. But church-state watchdog groups said the document left critical questions unanswered and did not resolve the issue of religious groups’ ability to discriminate in hiring and firing of workers.

Obama Signs Order To Reform Faith-Based Office (by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service)

Faith-based Panel Submits Recommendations (by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service)

Obama Council Approves Recommendations To Reform, Expand Faith-Based Initiative (Washington Post)

A Fair Fight (by Lisa Miller, Daily Beast)

White House Releases Public/Private Guidelines for Faith-based Groups (by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service)

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Comments

Maxine Cousin 2 years ago
I have a great deal of disdain for Faith Based Initiatives because they have stepped over the bounds several times regarding my father's death and the book I have written about the research a few of us did. A few of these pastors seem to believe that all they have to do is something dirty and God will reward them. I need a way to hold them accountable. How do I file a complaint
Sadio 7 years ago
i reside in decatur ga. i would like to advocate a living facility for wandering vets. i work at the va. and there are so mant vets that just need love. someone to be there in there time of need. no one should grow old alone. i would like the opportunity to make a difference.iam a vet also and proud to be one.
Minister Tonja 10 years ago
I was just wondering, how would I go about getting a grant to turn an old hotel into a homeless shelter for women in need of housing? There are so many homeless women around the world that it is appalling. There are women sleeping outside and there aren't enough shelters for them to call home.

Leave a comment

Founded: 2001
Annual Budget: $385 million
Employees: 60
Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
Rogers, Melissa
Executive Director

Melissa Rogers, an attorney who wrote a book on religious freedom, served as executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from March 2013 through the end of the Obama administration.

 

Rogers’ father, William B. Rogers Jr., was a Baptist minister and the dean of the School of Religious Education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Her mother, Luwilda McKaig Rogers, was an accountant.

 

Born circa 1966, Melissa Rogers attended Baylor University, graduating in 1988 with a B.A. in history. She earned her J.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1991, where she was the editor of the Comparative Labor Law Journal.

 

Rogers started her career as an attorney at the Washington firm of Dow, Lohnes and Albertson, focusing on telecommunications law and mergers. But in 1994, she joined the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty as associate general counsel before moving up to general counsel in 1999. There, she worked to enact the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which protects religious institutions from discrimination in zoning laws and protects the right of prisoners to practice their faith while incarcerated. That year, Rogers was made founding executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

 

In 2003, Rogers moved to Wake Forest University in North Carolina as director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs in the divinity school, a position she held for ten years. While at Wake Forest, she co-authored a casebook, Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court, in 2008.

 

She also served as a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and, in 2012, she co-authored the report Health Care Providers’ Consciences and Patients’ Needs: The Quest for Balance.

 

Rogers got her foot in the door at the White House in 2009 when President Barack Obama appointed her to be the inaugural chair of the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She recommended changes in the Affordable Care Act to allow more religious exemptions from the law’s contraception mandate. The language was changed to require that contraception be covered by insurance, but that it could be paid for by the insurer. She remained at Wake Forest until going to work at the White House.

 

President Obama appointed Rogers to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council four days before he left office. She also returned to her position as non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution and began teaching a course in Transformational Leadership at Yale University Divinity School,

 

Rogers is married to Stan Fendley, and they have two sons, Adam and Carter.

-Steve Straehley, David Wallechinsky

 

To Learn More

Melissa Rogers CV

Melissa Rogers to Lead White House Faith-Based Office (Wake Forest University)

President Obama’s Faith Inspires Pastors’ Defense Of White House Religion Policies (by Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post)

Official Biography

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DuBois, Joshua
Previous Director

President Barack Obama’s choice for taking over the reconfigured Office of Faith-Based Initiatives (now known as the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships) was a 26-year-old Pentecostal associate pastor named Joshua DuBois. He assumed the position in February 2009.

 
Born in Bar Harbor, Maine, DuBois spent time growing up in Cambridge, Massacusetts, Nashville, Tennessee, (which he considers his hometown), and Xenia, Ohio, where he attended high school. His grandmother participated in the 1960 Nashville sit-ins and used to tell her grandson stories about being spat on. The stepson of a minister at an African Methodist Episcopal church, a branch of Christianity born in protest against slavery in 1816, DuBois’ father is a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and his parents exposed him to James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” radio show.
 
In 1999, during DuBois’ freshman year at Boston University (BU), four police officers in New York City gunned down an unarmed Guinean immigrant named Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times. Local and national outrage followed the shooting and the trial, which resulted in the police officers being acquitted. Although he had no prior history of social activism, DuBois was so upset over the Diallo case that he decided to conduct his own one-man protest. Holding a sign that read “NO MORE,” he stood on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, in front of a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr., for 41 hours—one for each shot that killed Diallo.
 
During his vigil, DuBois met Eugene Schneeberg, a fellow student at BU, who invited DuBois to church at the Calvary Praise & Worship Center, a tiny evangelical congregation affiliated with the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God, a small, predominantly African-American denomination. DuBois liked what he saw at Calvary, and although just a teenager, he started preaching when the pastor was away and was named an associate pastor at age 18.
 
DuBois graduated cum laude from BU in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. From BU, he went to Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs, where he earned a master’s degree in public affairs in 2005. He then enrolled in the part-time program at Georgetown University Law School, but dropped out to join Barack Obama’s campaign. DuBois was first drawn to Oabma when, at a restaurant, he watched Obama’s keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
 
DuBois decided he wanted to work for Obama, then a candidate for the US Senate. He wrote to Obama’s campaign manager and got a form rejection. After Obama arrived in Washington, DuBois twice drove to his office but failed to get a job interview. His third try proved successful, and he left Georgetown to join Obama’s Senate staff in 2005. Spearheading a religious outreach program, DuBois oversaw a staff of four, as well as six interns, who organized more than 200 town hall meetings and house parties during the presidential campaign that sought to convince voters that Obama was a man motivated by his faith. DuBois also was part of a Democratic working group focused on building relationships with religious leaders, especially evangelical Christians alienated by the Republican record on economic inequality, foreign policy and environmental matters.
 
After Obama announced DuBois’ appointment to lead the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, both supporters and critics of President Bush’s faith-based initiative had good things to say about the leading religious voice of the new administration. Orthodox Union public policy director Nathan Diament said, “Joshua not only knows the people, but he also knows the key policies that concern the faith communities very well.”
 
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, who would have preferred that Obama scrap the faith-based council, also praised DuBois as “an extraordinarily bright, thoughtful and competent professional” who did a “superb job in faith outreach” during the campaign.
 
DuBois is expected to oversee a reconfigured office that will not only oversee the distribution of grants to religious and community groups, but will also look for other ways to involve those groups in working on pressing social problems. Obama has promised to increase spending on social services, increase training for charities applying for funding and make that a grassroots effort, and to elevate the faith-based program’s status within the White House.
 
Faith panel chief seen as inexperienced (by Julia Duin, Washington Times)
Leaders Say Obama Has Tapped Pastor for Outreach Office (by Laurie Goodstein, New York Times)
Obama’s Man of Faith (by Michael Paulson, Boston Globe)
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Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, formerly the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, was established by President George W. Bush just nine days after he took office in January 2001. The office is part of the Executive Office of the President, responsible for expanding the opportunities for faith-based and community organizations to receive federal funding. Through these faith-based and community organizations, the federal government can award grants through 11 agencies and provide social services to individuals. These agencies include the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, Agriculture, Commerce and Veterans Affairs, plus the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Small Business Administration. 

 

There is a traditional belief in the United States that the U.S. Constitution prohibits the use of federal funds to promote religion, and that organizations and programs that receive federal funding are not allowed to use religion as a criterion for choosing employees or beneficiaries. President Bush’s effort to have religious organizations more involved in government-supported social programs has drawn considerable criticism from libertarians and others claiming the initiative violates the basic tenet of church-state separation.

more
History:

On August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed a welfare reform law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, that included a provision, Section 104, which allowed the states to use federal funds to hire religious groups to provide social services. This provision, known as the “Charitable Choice” provision, also gave religious groups that receive federal grants the right to display religious symbols, scripture and icons while delivering government social services. In December, George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas, became the first governor to order these new standards to be used on a state level. Nine days after his inauguration as president of the United States, Bush, by executive order, created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (WHOFBCI). He also ordered audits of various government departments to identify rules and regulations that barred religious groups from delivering social services. The subsequent report, Unlevel Playing Field, incorrectly stated that religious groups were banned from taking part in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program. In fact, two-thirds of the program’s sponsors were religious organizations. The report also incorrectly claimed that no faith-based organization received funding for HUD’s Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, when, in reality, the faith-based group Habitat for Humanity International received more than half of the program’s funding in fiscal year 2000.

 

“A little bit frustrated” with congressional delays in passing a law that supported his initiative, Bush, in December 2002, issued a new set of executive orders to stop what he said was discrimination against religious groups obtaining government contracts. “I did it on my own,” he boasted on March 3, 2004. These orders gave religious organizations funded by the government the right to give employment preference to members of their own religion and they exempted these groups from rules that forbid religious discrimination. At the time, Bush explained, “No government policy can put hope in people’s hearts or a sense of purpose in people’s lives.”

 

The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives was created as the result of these Executive Orders:

 

  • Executive Order 13199 created the White House Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives on January 29, 2001.
  • Executive Order 13198 created five Centers for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives on January 29, 2001.
  • Executive Order 13280 created two Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives on December 12, 2002.
  • Executive Order 13279 requires equal protection for faith-based and community organizations as of December 12, 2002.
  • Executive Order 13342 created three new Centers for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives at the Departments of Commerce and Veterans Affairs and the Small Business Administration on June 1, 2004.
  • Executive Order 13397 created a new Center for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives at the Department of Homeland Security on March 7, 2006.
more
What it Does:

The Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships oversees programs throughout the federal government that seek to direct government opportunities for faith-based social services organizations. The federal government awards grants through 11 agencies to faith-based and community organizations. Participating federal agencies are the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, Agriculture, Commerce and Veterans Affairs, plus the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Small Business Administration.

 

According to President Bush’s wishes, the office is responsible for opening up the competitive federal grant-making process. These agencies have adopted several methods of making this possible, by making information more accessible, providing training and technical assistance, broadening program eligibility, changing regulations, and streamlining grant applications. Additionally, the White House hosts regional conferences and workshops to support faith-based and community social service programs. These events provide participants with information about the government grants process and available funding opportunities and an overview of the legal responsibilities that come with the receipt of federal funds.

 

As a Democratic candidate for President, Barack Obama expressed support for the office, drawing complaints from those who believe these programs discriminate based on faith and raise questions on the separation of church and state. As President, Obama followed through with his campaign pledge to expand the office—calling for increased federal spending and a larger agenda—and change its name to the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He appointed as the office’s new director Joshua DuBois, a Pentecostal minister and former religious affairs director for the Obama presidential campaign. DeBois’s stated mission was to coordinate social service outreach with faith-based organizations, focusing primarily on poverty. Obama also established within the office an Advisory Council composed of 25 religious and secular leaders and scholars from varying backgrounds. Each member of the Council is appointed to a one-year term. The Council’s agenda has included climate change, human trafficking, military conflicts, and the need to reduce abortions.

 

President Obama established four key priorities for the office:

 

 

The Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships publishes several written resources to assist grassroots groups in navigating the federal grants system. These include Federal Funds for Organizations That Help Those In Need (pdf) (a catalog of federal grant opportunities), Guidance to Faith-Based and Community Organizations on Partnering with the Federal Government (pdf) (a guide to the legal responsibilities associated with the receipt of federal funds), and Protecting the Civil Rights and Religious Liberty of Faith-Based Organizations (pdf) (outlines the protection of religious hiring rights).

 

Some of the featured programs of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships include:

 

Compassion Capital Fund, which serves as a bridge between the federal government and faith-based and community organizations. Intermediary organizations provide technical assistance and capacity-building sub-awards.

 

Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program, which makes competitive grants to applicants serving populations with substantial numbers of children of incarcerated parents and to support the establishment and operation of mentoring programs.

 

Access to Recovery (ATR), which is a three-year competitive discretionary grant program funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. ATR provides vouchers to clients for the purchase of substance abuse clinical treatment and recovery support services.

 

US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which works with international, national and local leaders worldwide to support prevention, treatment, and care programs.

 

 

The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which is an initiative that encourages institutions of higher education to commit to a year of interfaith and community service programming on campus.

 

The National Conversation on Responsible Fatherhood and Strong Communities, which launched a national fatherhood tour to hear from local communities about how we can encourage personal responsibility and strengthen our nation’s families.

 

The agency’s partnership with the White House Council on Women and Girls, which seeks to support women and children, reduce unintended pregnancies, support maternal and child health, and reduce the need for abortion.

 

Of Little Faith: The Politics of George W. Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives by Black, Koopman and Ryden

Advisory Council’s Report on Recommendations to the President (pdf)

 

From the Web Site of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

 

Advisory Council

Blog Posts

Contact the Office

Directory of Federal Centers

Grants and Resources

Interfaith Service Challenge

Policy Goals

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Where Does the Money Go:

As of 2010, more than $22 billion per year was distributed by the federal government to more than 50 programs supporting education, community development, basic nutrition, and other social services. In 2007, the federal government provided more than 19,000 direct, competitive awards to American nonprofit organizations to aid the homeless, at-risk youth, recovering addicts, returning offenders, people infected of affected by HIV/AIDS, and others. These grants totaled more than $15.3 billion. Faith-based organizations won more than 3,200 grants in 2007, totaling over $2.2 billion.

 

For fiscal year 2005, more than $2.2 billion in competitive social service grants were awarded to faith-based organizations. Between fiscal years 2003 and 2005, the total dollar amount of all grants awarded to FBOs increased by 21%. The majority of these grants were distributed through state agencies to local organizations in the form of formula grants.

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Controversies:

Obama Council Appointments

Some religious leaders expressed disappointment in 2011 over President Barack Obama’s selections for his advisory council on faith-based programs. Critics complained too many leaders of Christian and Jewish faiths were selected, leaving out those who practice Islam or Hinduism. The White House responded by saying Obama would choose more panel members at a later date.

 

By 2012, the faith-based panel was vacant. The second round of promised appointments never materialized, “and the panel basically faded into the woodwork,” according to Rick Cohen at Nonprofit Quarterly. Cohen added that it seemed like Obama wasn’t taking the panel very seriously.

 

A few months later, Obama indicated he was still interested in faith-based initiatives and released a series of recommendations for reforming the program.

Obama's Faith-Based Advisers: Round Two (by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service)

President Obama’s Faith-Based Council Drops Out of Sight (by Rick Cohen, Nonprofit Quarterly)

Obama’s Faith-Based Failure (by Sarah Posner, Salon)

 

Council’s Director and Obama Reject Removal of “Under God”

Through the head of his Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, President Barack Obama rejected demands in 2011 from atheists to remove “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

Joshua DuBois, the office’s executive director, responded to a petition calling for the removal of “Under God” by saying Obama supports the religious rights of all Americans as well as the separation of church and state.

 

But, DuBois added, the president also believes religion plays an important role in public life, which is why he wants to keep “Under God” in place. He also supports having “In God We Trust” on U.S. currency, DuBois said.

The White House Responds to Petition to Remove ‘Under God’ from Pledge of Allegiance (by Hermant Mehta, Friendly Atheist)

White House Responds To Marijuana and God Petitions (Nextgov)

Obama Supports Forcing Atheists’ Kids To Pledge Oaths To God (by Peregrin Wood, Irregular Times)

 

Obama Accused of Using the Council for His Own Agenda

Conservatives have repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama claiming he has used the Office of Faith-based Initiatives and Neighborhood Partnerships to further his political agenda.

 

The Weekly Standard accused of Obama of attempting to use the office as a “mechanism for nationwide community organizing.” The American Thinker claimed Obama intended to use the office to turn the American people against Israel.

 

Along these lines, a task force charged in 2009 with coming up with recommendations for the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships said it should “create a working group of multi-religious and community organizations focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to advise administration officials at the National Security Council and the State Department on a just resolution of the conflict.”

 

Still other conservatives believed Obama would link the office to his “radical” environmental policies in order to push “global warming, climate change, and green initiatives on America’s churches,” according to Hyscience.

Obama Abuses Faith Office To Promote His Radical Agenda (by Ed Lasky, American Thinker)

Faith-Based Obama (Washington Post Op-Ed)

Obama Using Faith-Based Programs To Push Ideology Of Global Warming, Climate Change, Green Issues (Hyscience)

Faith-Based Reform Veers Into Israeli Policy (by Rebecca Dube, The Jewish Daily Forward)

 

Stimulus Funds Went to Religious Groups

Conservatives branded President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan anti-religious. Little did they know that faith-based organizations would be among those that received funding from the billion-dollar program.

 

Of the $787 billion allocated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, at least $140 million went to faith-based groups. In fact, the Obama administration didn’t just make stimulus funds available to religious organizations—it encouraged them to apply for the grants.

 

Federal agencies conducted outreach to faith-based groups and explained how to apply for the grants. Sometimes, federal officials “stepped in when the state officials who distribute the money were reluctant to spend it on groups associated with churches and other religious establishments,” according to Politico.

Obama's Stimulus Pours Millions Into Faith-Based Groups (by Ben Smith and Byron Tau, Politico)

Is the Stimulus Act Anti-Religious? (by Tobin Grant, Christianity Today)

 

Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Raises Constitutional Issues

When President George W. Bush created the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, critics pointed out that millions in federal grants have gone to ministries operated by political supporters of the Bush administration or have been given to minority pastors who recently committed their support. Others claimed that legitimate faith-based groups like Pagans and Sikhs were excluded, while other religions like Christianity were more readily funded. On June 25, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation that executive orders may not be challenged on Establishment Clause grounds by individuals whose sole claim to legal standing is that they are taxpayers. Both of Bush’s appointees to the court, John G. Roberts and Samuel Alito, sided with the majority.

Religion for Captive Audiences, With Taxpayers Footing the Bill (by Diana B. Henriques and Andrew Lehren, New York Times)

Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation (Oyez)

 

Faith-Based Director Resigns After Controversy-Riddled Reign

In April 2006, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, H. James Towey, resigned to become President of St. Vincent College in Pennsylvania. Towey, who had served as legal counsel to Mother Theresa of Calcutta for 12 years, led efforts to implement 16 regulations designed to lift roadblocks to federal agency funding of religious organizations. Those administrative changes marked a major shift in the separation of church and state, as noted in a report by the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy, “The Expanding Administrative Presidency: George W. Bush and the Faith-Based Initiative.” (pdf)

Religious Watchdog Group Calls for Closing of Faith-Based Office (by Melanie Hunter,

cnsnews.com)

 

Former Faith-Based Employee Reveals All in Book

David Kuo, a former member of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, revealed in his 2006 book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, that the program was used for political purposes, and that the President did not fulfill his promises to put enough money into the initiative. Kuo revealed that the Bush administration used evangelical Christians to win votes, but then privately ridiculed them once in office, saying, “National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ridiculous, out of control, and just plain goofy.” In particular, Kuo quotes Karl Rove, the President’s long-serving political adviser and mentor, as describing evangelical Christians as “nuts.” The White House rejected the claims.

Aide says White House mocked evangelicals (by Julian Borger, The Guardian)

 

Department of Homeland Security Receives Office of Faith-Based Initiatives

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, President George W. Bush added another office of faith-based initiatives in the Department of Homeland Security. Though many believed that this was another excuse for the federal government to funnel more than $2 billion to religious organizations, others argued that the government was using disasters like Hurricane Katrina to preach to people in order to receive help.

DHS Gets New Faith-Based Office (by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, Fox News)

 

Obama Wants to Continue Bush's Faith-Based Programs

As the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama, in an attempt to reach out to conservative voters, said he wanted to expand President George W. Bush’s faith-based programs, drawing complaints from those who believe these programs discriminate based on faith and raise questions on the separation of church and state. Obama’s plan was to get religious charities more involved in government anti-poverty programs. He does not approve using religious preferences in the hiring and firing of employees, nor the using federal money to proselytize. Obama proposed renaming it the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, moving away from hosting large conferences, and empowering larger religious charities to mentor smaller ones in their communities. He also proposed a $500 million per year program to provide summer learning for one million poor children to help close achievement gaps with white and wealthier students.

Obama wants to expand faith-based programs (Associated Press)

Obama Wants to Expand Role of Religious Groups (by Jeff Zeleny and Brian Knowlton, New York Times)

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Suggested Reforms:

Greater Transparency and Other Reforms

 

President Barack Obama signed an executive order in November 2011 that reformed the Office of Faith-based Initiatives and Neighborhood Partnerships to improve transparency and clarify rules for religious groups that receive federal grants.

 

Among the changes were ways to strengthen the constitutional and legal footing of public-private partnerships, to clarify prohibited uses of direct financial assistance, to protect the religious identity of faith-based clients, and to assure the religious liberty rights of clients and beneficiaries of federal social service funds.

 

The executive order did not address controversial questions regarding whether grant recipients can hire and fire based on religion. The administration chose instead to deal with those questions on a case-by-case basis.

 

The following year, the White House issued another report that sought to address public/private partnerships between the government and faith-based groups. But church-state watchdog groups said the document left critical questions unanswered and did not resolve the issue of religious groups’ ability to discriminate in hiring and firing of workers.

Obama Signs Order To Reform Faith-Based Office (by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service)

Faith-based Panel Submits Recommendations (by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service)

Obama Council Approves Recommendations To Reform, Expand Faith-Based Initiative (Washington Post)

A Fair Fight (by Lisa Miller, Daily Beast)

White House Releases Public/Private Guidelines for Faith-based Groups (by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service)

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Comments

Maxine Cousin 2 years ago
I have a great deal of disdain for Faith Based Initiatives because they have stepped over the bounds several times regarding my father's death and the book I have written about the research a few of us did. A few of these pastors seem to believe that all they have to do is something dirty and God will reward them. I need a way to hold them accountable. How do I file a complaint
Sadio 7 years ago
i reside in decatur ga. i would like to advocate a living facility for wandering vets. i work at the va. and there are so mant vets that just need love. someone to be there in there time of need. no one should grow old alone. i would like the opportunity to make a difference.iam a vet also and proud to be one.
Minister Tonja 10 years ago
I was just wondering, how would I go about getting a grant to turn an old hotel into a homeless shelter for women in need of housing? There are so many homeless women around the world that it is appalling. There are women sleeping outside and there aren't enough shelters for them to call home.

Leave a comment

Founded: 2001
Annual Budget: $385 million
Employees: 60
Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
Rogers, Melissa
Executive Director

Melissa Rogers, an attorney who wrote a book on religious freedom, served as executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from March 2013 through the end of the Obama administration.

 

Rogers’ father, William B. Rogers Jr., was a Baptist minister and the dean of the School of Religious Education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Her mother, Luwilda McKaig Rogers, was an accountant.

 

Born circa 1966, Melissa Rogers attended Baylor University, graduating in 1988 with a B.A. in history. She earned her J.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1991, where she was the editor of the Comparative Labor Law Journal.

 

Rogers started her career as an attorney at the Washington firm of Dow, Lohnes and Albertson, focusing on telecommunications law and mergers. But in 1994, she joined the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty as associate general counsel before moving up to general counsel in 1999. There, she worked to enact the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which protects religious institutions from discrimination in zoning laws and protects the right of prisoners to practice their faith while incarcerated. That year, Rogers was made founding executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

 

In 2003, Rogers moved to Wake Forest University in North Carolina as director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs in the divinity school, a position she held for ten years. While at Wake Forest, she co-authored a casebook, Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court, in 2008.

 

She also served as a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and, in 2012, she co-authored the report Health Care Providers’ Consciences and Patients’ Needs: The Quest for Balance.

 

Rogers got her foot in the door at the White House in 2009 when President Barack Obama appointed her to be the inaugural chair of the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She recommended changes in the Affordable Care Act to allow more religious exemptions from the law’s contraception mandate. The language was changed to require that contraception be covered by insurance, but that it could be paid for by the insurer. She remained at Wake Forest until going to work at the White House.

 

President Obama appointed Rogers to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council four days before he left office. She also returned to her position as non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution and began teaching a course in Transformational Leadership at Yale University Divinity School,

 

Rogers is married to Stan Fendley, and they have two sons, Adam and Carter.

-Steve Straehley, David Wallechinsky

 

To Learn More

Melissa Rogers CV

Melissa Rogers to Lead White House Faith-Based Office (Wake Forest University)

President Obama’s Faith Inspires Pastors’ Defense Of White House Religion Policies (by Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post)

Official Biography

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DuBois, Joshua
Previous Director

President Barack Obama’s choice for taking over the reconfigured Office of Faith-Based Initiatives (now known as the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships) was a 26-year-old Pentecostal associate pastor named Joshua DuBois. He assumed the position in February 2009.

 
Born in Bar Harbor, Maine, DuBois spent time growing up in Cambridge, Massacusetts, Nashville, Tennessee, (which he considers his hometown), and Xenia, Ohio, where he attended high school. His grandmother participated in the 1960 Nashville sit-ins and used to tell her grandson stories about being spat on. The stepson of a minister at an African Methodist Episcopal church, a branch of Christianity born in protest against slavery in 1816, DuBois’ father is a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and his parents exposed him to James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” radio show.
 
In 1999, during DuBois’ freshman year at Boston University (BU), four police officers in New York City gunned down an unarmed Guinean immigrant named Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times. Local and national outrage followed the shooting and the trial, which resulted in the police officers being acquitted. Although he had no prior history of social activism, DuBois was so upset over the Diallo case that he decided to conduct his own one-man protest. Holding a sign that read “NO MORE,” he stood on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, in front of a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr., for 41 hours—one for each shot that killed Diallo.
 
During his vigil, DuBois met Eugene Schneeberg, a fellow student at BU, who invited DuBois to church at the Calvary Praise & Worship Center, a tiny evangelical congregation affiliated with the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God, a small, predominantly African-American denomination. DuBois liked what he saw at Calvary, and although just a teenager, he started preaching when the pastor was away and was named an associate pastor at age 18.
 
DuBois graduated cum laude from BU in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. From BU, he went to Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs, where he earned a master’s degree in public affairs in 2005. He then enrolled in the part-time program at Georgetown University Law School, but dropped out to join Barack Obama’s campaign. DuBois was first drawn to Oabma when, at a restaurant, he watched Obama’s keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
 
DuBois decided he wanted to work for Obama, then a candidate for the US Senate. He wrote to Obama’s campaign manager and got a form rejection. After Obama arrived in Washington, DuBois twice drove to his office but failed to get a job interview. His third try proved successful, and he left Georgetown to join Obama’s Senate staff in 2005. Spearheading a religious outreach program, DuBois oversaw a staff of four, as well as six interns, who organized more than 200 town hall meetings and house parties during the presidential campaign that sought to convince voters that Obama was a man motivated by his faith. DuBois also was part of a Democratic working group focused on building relationships with religious leaders, especially evangelical Christians alienated by the Republican record on economic inequality, foreign policy and environmental matters.
 
After Obama announced DuBois’ appointment to lead the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, both supporters and critics of President Bush’s faith-based initiative had good things to say about the leading religious voice of the new administration. Orthodox Union public policy director Nathan Diament said, “Joshua not only knows the people, but he also knows the key policies that concern the faith communities very well.”
 
Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, who would have preferred that Obama scrap the faith-based council, also praised DuBois as “an extraordinarily bright, thoughtful and competent professional” who did a “superb job in faith outreach” during the campaign.
 
DuBois is expected to oversee a reconfigured office that will not only oversee the distribution of grants to religious and community groups, but will also look for other ways to involve those groups in working on pressing social problems. Obama has promised to increase spending on social services, increase training for charities applying for funding and make that a grassroots effort, and to elevate the faith-based program’s status within the White House.
 
Faith panel chief seen as inexperienced (by Julia Duin, Washington Times)
Leaders Say Obama Has Tapped Pastor for Outreach Office (by Laurie Goodstein, New York Times)
Obama’s Man of Faith (by Michael Paulson, Boston Globe)
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