Sunday, January 10, 2010. 10:10 AM
Faith in the White House: The Office of Neighborhood and Faith-Based Partnerships
Cathedral Dean Sam Lloyd and White House religious outreach coordinator Joshua DuBois discuss the role of religious communities in shaping public discourse and providing services to people in need. DuBois serves as special assistant to President Barack Obama and as executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The Obama administration has been reshaping the White House’s approach to collaborating with, and funding, faith-based organizations and efforts. Working in twelve government agencies, the office coordinates communication and partnerships to address pressing needs of society.
DuBois describes the office’s change in emphasis from the financial to the civic. He points out the significant problems of giving federal funds to religious organizations, underscoring commitment to the separation of church and state. The office works with faith-based groups from many different religious traditions, as well as secular non-profit organizations. Interfaith work is potentially fraught with tensions, but the office places service, and specific needs, at the center of its efforts. “There are fewer debates around coming together to feed a hungry community,” DuBois points out.
In a new project at the Department of Homeland Security, the office is helping to coordinate disaster response. Faith-based and non-profit groups “are often the organizations that are responding to a disaster first,” DuBois says. “We’ve never really thought about … how they fold into our disaster response plans. And we’re doing that now. That’s also an example of a non-financial aspect of our work.” The federal government is not dispensing grants to these organizations, but instead is helping them to design their work in the aftermath of disaster.
“We leave the religious aspects of religion to those experts,” DuBois summarizes, “but we also don’t limit it.… We don’t require any pastor or other leader in the church to check their values or their prophetic vision at the door in order to interact with us.”
About Joshua DuBois
Joshua DuBois is special assistant to President Obama and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In this capacity, DuBois helps direct the Obama Administration’s engagement of faith-based and other nonprofit organizations. One of President Obama’s longest serving aides, he previously served as director of religious affairs for the Obama for America campaign, as well as the Presidential Inauguration Committee. Prior to his involvement with the Obama campaign, DuBois was a legislative aide to then-Senator Obama. He also spent time working for Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Charles Rangel (D-NY). DuBois was also an associate pastor at a small, Pentecostal church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He received a Masters in Public Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and a Bachelor’s degree from Boston University. DuBois was raised in Nashville, Tennessee.