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Obama's Office of Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships

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Obama's Office of Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On February 5, 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order establishing the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships ("Faith-Based office") which is intended to "work on behalf of Americans committed to improving their communities, no matter their religious or political beliefs."

Per President Obama, "the White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will be a resource for nonprofits and community organizations, both secular and faith based:

  • looking for ways to make a bigger impact in their communities,
  • learn their obligations under the law,
  • cut through red tape, and
  • make the most of what the federal government has to offer."
Obama's overriding reason for establishing this office is because he believes that "our problems require an 'all hands on deck' approach, and that the federal government should enlist effective faith-based and community groups to help solve them."

Of course, Obama's strong support of faith-based and community partnership initiatives stems from his early years as a hands-on community organizer on Chicago's South Side.

Obama's Faith-Based Community Service Plan

The Faith-Based Office will be charged with implementing Obama's Faith-Based Community Service Plan which Obama unveiled in detail on July 1, 2008.

President Obama's faith-based initiative is significantly improved in many important ways from the Bush administration's faith-based programs, including:

  • Faith-based and secular community service organizations will be considered equally for partnership under this plan.

  • Prohibitions against faith-based organizations using these programs for religious instruction or proselytizing.

  • Disallowance of organizations in discriminating against potential or actual program participants.

  • Ongoing periodic evaluations of all programs against "best practices" benchmarks.
In mid-2008, Obama proposed faith-based funding of more than $1 billion, including $500-million-a-year plan for a summer literacy program to strenghten reading and math skills for one million children from low-income families.

Given that the U.S. economy has since fallen on extremely dire times, funding for Obama's Faith-Based Offices and initiative will surely be far less than originally planned.

See Barack Obama's Faith-Based Community Service Plan for vital details about Obama's plans to partner with faith-based and community organizations.

President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships

Obama's Faith-Based Office will be overseen by a 25-member advisory board of "religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds" appointed to one-year terms.

The Faith-Based Advisory Council will be headed by Rev. Joshua DuBois, the 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor who served as director of religious affairs for Obama's Presidential campaign. Included on the influential Council are:

  • Judith N. Vredenburgh, President & CEO, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America - Philadelphia, PA

  • Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director & Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism - Washington, DC

  • Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, Sojourners- Washington, DC

  • Dr. Frank S. Page, President emeritus, Southern Baptist Convention - Taylors, SC
  • Father Larry J. Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA - Alexandria, VA

  • Eboo S. Patel, Founder & Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Corps - Chicago, IL

  • Richard Stearns, President, World Vision - Bellevue, WA

  • Fred Davie, President, Public / Private Ventures, a secular non-profit intermediary organization - New York, NY

  • Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA - Philadelphia, PA

  • Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs - Winston-Salem, NC

  • Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church Distributed - Lakeland, FL

  • Dr. Arturo Chavez, Ph.D., President & CEO, Mexican-American Cultural Center - San Antonio, TX

  • Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church - Knoxville, TN

  • Diane Baillargeon, President & CEO, Seedco, a secular national intermediary organization - New York, NY

  • Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church - Cleveland, OH
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