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White House Plans New Faith-Based Council

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
The White House is expected to announce tomorrow the creation of a Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, part of its effort to overhaul the White House office of faith-based initatives.

The group will do more than steer federal social-service funds to religious organizations, said the Rev. Jim Wallis, who expects to be named to the council. "This is a much broader mission than who gets funded," he said.

Wallis, who presides over Sojourners, a progressive Christian organization based in the District, said that he expects the council will advise the president on substantive policy issues -- both foreign and domestic.

Foreign issues might include issues that have concerned religious and non-governmental organizations for years, such as alleviating AIDS in Africa or conflict resolution in Darfur. Domestically, a major focus of the council is expected to be advising President Obama on poverty reduction. "That's what brings us together across the political spectrum," said Wallis.

The announcement tomorrow will coincide with the date of the annual National Prayer Breakfast, which Obama is scheduled to attend.

Aside from Wallis, those expected to be named to the council include the Rev. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of the megachurch Northland Church in Florida; Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; the Rev. Frank Page, former president of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention; and Judith Vredenburgh, president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. The council will eventually have about 20 to 25 members, and about a dozen are expected to be named tomorrow.

Last week, Obama named Joshua Dubois, who worked on Obama's faith outreach during his campaign, as executive director of White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The council will be a part of that office.

Some religious and secular groups said this week that they were primarily waiting to see what Obama's faith office does on constitutional issues that were controversial during the Bush years. They include whether the administration will rescind executive orders allowing religious groups that got government dollars to hire only those from their own faith.

Joe Conn, spokesman for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said the existence of the advisory council was neither good nor bad. "For us, the problem is correcting these civil liberties violations. ... We want to see some actions on executive orders," he said.

By Post Editor  |  February 4, 2009; 9:21 AM ET
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I had to smile when I read the comment that this new initiative by President Obama should be called the Office of Socialism. Since when was helping one's neighbour regardless of political persuasion, race, gender, or nationality, "socialism." Does the writer even know the difference among socialism, social democracy, and capitalism (economic systems)? This new White House office sounds more like a Faith based outreach to one's neighbours. This is a tenet I choose to believe may be contained in most of the major faiths. I'm a Christian, and I think Jesus would approve.

Posted by: tyndalstone | February 4, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Should be named: Office of Socialism!

Posted by: SAINT---The | February 4, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I was golfing yesterday. Maybe I should do that more often and Hillary Clinton will resign?

Posted by: JakeD | February 4, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse


You are still kinda bitter that Rick Warren said the Inauguration invocation, huh?

Posted by: JakeD | February 4, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

What is it in their makeup that stops Republicans from embracing bipartisanship? They wanted nothing to do with it when they were in control and are even worse now with the Democrats holding power.
The Republican motto should be Party First.

Posted by: bdunn1 | February 4, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse


Please put THIS item on your agenda. It's vital to the survival of our democracy and the health and well-being of our people:



Posted by: scrivener50 | February 4, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm guessing Obama will let the religious groups continue to discriminate in hiring against tax-paying gay Americans.

Because, you know, he wants to curry favor with the religious right, most of whom voted against him last November.

Posted by: S1VA | February 4, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

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