- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2008

Barack Obama‘s announcement that he would change the title of the White House Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives - which President Bush created in 2001 - to the White House Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, gives an indication of how different his approach will be. Mr. Obama said “leaders in both parties have recognized the value of a partnership between the White House and faith-based groups.”

Mr. Obama mentioned Bill Clinton’s loosening of constraints on faith-based groups to work with government, Al Gore’s plan to expand on that and he quoted President Bush, saying, “[Mr. Bush] came into office with a promise to ‘rally the armies of compassion’. “I still believe it’s a good idea,” Mr. Obama said on the stump Tuesday in Zanesville, Ohio. This subject is no surprise at all coming from an activist who spent his early 20s working with faith-based community groups in Chicago, trying to feed and shelter the homeless, train people for jobs, provide counseling for alcohol and drug abuse, curb youth violence and tackle a host of other social problems.

But then Mr. Obama let loose the politics in Zanesville. Mr. Obama chastised the Bush administration for running its program in a partisan fashion, shortchanging certain groups that didn’t fall in line. The faith initiative’s first director, John J. Dilulio Jr., made those criticisms after he resigned 6 months into the job. The Democratic nominee went on to say that the office never lived up to its promise of helping distressed communities because it was underfunded. But the fact is it will always be underfunded; there isn’t enough money to cure all the nation’s ills.

Still, the left is in full flight. “Senator Obama’s speech on government partnerships with faith-based and grassroots social service groups included a clear commitment to constitutional principles, something that has been sorely lacking during the Bush administration,” said People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert, who is supposed to be a staunch defender of separation of church and state. The crux of the criticism was to question how “potentially … problematic” the plan could be if federal funds were sent directly to houses of worship. “That’s a bad idea,” Mrs. Kolbert said. The Rev. Barry Lynn, director of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, was slightly more agitated: “This initiative has been a failure on all counts, and it ought to be shut down, not expanded.” But Mr. Lynn was pleased to hear Mr. Obama say that he would “bar government-funded proselytism and religious discrimination in hiring when tax dollars are involved.”

Take the other party’s idea, criticize it, adapt it, rename it and praise it. Sounds like traditional Washington politics.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide