Obama taps young liberal Evangelical to head Faith-Based office

Obama taps young liberal Evangelical to head Faith-Based office

Joshua DuBois on the campaign trail during President Obama's run for office
Joshua DuBois on the campaign trail during President Obama's run for office


Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old former associate pastor who handled religious outreach for President Barack Obama’s presidential bid, will head up the administration’s new Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Mr. DuBois, who grew up in Nashville, Tennesse, and Xenia, Ohio, is the stepson of a minister at an African Methodist Episcopal church, a branch of Christianity born in protest against slavery in 1816.

While studying at Boston University, Mr. DuBois became an evangelical Christian and joined Calvary Praise and Worship Center, a small African-American Pentecostal congregation in Cambridge. He became an associate pastor at age 18.

He started his political career as an aide to Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), then took a position as a fellow in the office of Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), both  staunchly pro-abortion. He has also participated in Sojourners, a group of liberal Christians headed by Jim Wallis that claims to be pro-life without working to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Sen. Obama hired DuBois in 2005 to spearhead a religious outreach program in his senate office, and he quickly became Obama's consultant on all faith-related issues.

In 2007, the liberal group "Faith in Public Life" described DuBois as "guarded in discussing his personal positions" on critical issues, especially abortion.

In fact, he resisted disclosing his view on abortion during an interview with the evangelical magazine WORD in 2007. Nevertheless, he has adhered to the "let's move beyond the legal battle and let's reduce abortions" argument that has been promoted by organizations like Catholics United and Catholic in Alliance for the Common Good. Both claim to be non-partisan, but have significant ties with the Democrat Party.

"Abortion is certainly a deeply moral issue, but so is struggling to afford decent health care for your family, or straining to put food on your table," DuBois said to a group of Catholics considering a vote for Obama during the campaign.

So far, DuBois has received praise from several Catholic organizations that openly or subtly supported Obama despite his pro-abortion record, such as Catholics for Obama and the Matthew 25 Network.

Speaking to the Washington Times, Bill Donohue expressed his concern over DuBois' association with groups involved in what he believes is "diluting" Catholic identity.

Mr. DuBois "has been very skilled, very deft," he added. "His entire Catholic outreach was toward groups who said they opposed abortion but agreed with Obama on every decision he made. These were new Catholic organizations that served the Obama agenda."

In a speech Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama outlined how the new faith-based office under DuBois will be different from that of the Bush administration. The president said the initiative "will not be to favor one religious group over another -- or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line our founders wisely drew between church and state."

DuBois said on Wednesday that Obama will sign an executive order requiring his office to seek guidance from the attorney general on constitutional issues, including religious hiring.

In other words, support provided to faith based organizations will be handled on a case by case basis –but in consultation with a Justice Department reshaped by Obama with personalities that make pro-life organizations nervous.

Critics believe that such a process of consultation will lead to a system that only funds religious organizations if they have ideological similarities with the president's agenda.

In a statement following the appointment of DuBois, Donohue said that “those who walk in the middle of the street risk getting run over by cars on both sides. We know what President Obama wants—he said during the campaign that religious organizations that receive federal monies should not have the right to determine who works for them. But now he’s preoccupied with issues of a more urgent matter. Thus, the balk.

“Sending requests on a case by case basis to lawyers to examine the constitutional questions is a ruse: We already know what the law says. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, in Section 702 (a), specifically allows an exemption for religious organizations in hiring. The legislators who passed this historic act knew that for the government to deny religious organizations that receive public monies the right to determine who should service its constituents would effectively neuter them. That position is as true today as it was then.

“It was also announced today that this office will expand its domain by working with the National Security Council ‘to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world.’ Bunk. What in the world does servicing the poor and promoting responsible fatherhood—two of the four priorities outlined by DuBois—have to do with having the National Security Council sit down with Ahmadinejad for a chat? This is just another way to gut faith-based initiatives."

Other experts believe that Obama's approach to his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will not only be prone to bias, but also lead to dangerous social consequences.

Speaking about groups with longstanding government grants or contracts, such as the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities, that take religion into account in hiring, Dr. Carlson-Thies, director of social policy for the Center for Public Justice told the Christian Science Monitor that “maybe in an economic crisis, when calling for all hands on deck, it’s not the best thing to pass a ban and discover the fallout later.”