Why does Obama’s Faith-based office still have Bush’s policy on employment discrimination?

The White House Office of Faith-based Initiatives is getting some much warranted attention. Last month, Kerry Eleveld wrote an article revealing how the Obama office operates in the same manner — and with the same rules — as Bush’s office did, even though Obama promised in 2008 that he would immediately reverse Bush’s practice of federally funding religious organizations that discriminate.

Last week, the head of the Office, Joshua Dubois was in Denver speaking about his office and its mission. John wrote a post about Dubois’ comments titled, Faith-based Initiative head disses separation of church and state:

Denver Post:
“If your focus is first and foremost serving people in need, then there’s not a tremendous amount of time left to debate the finer points of the church- state relationship,” said program director Joshua DuBois.

Actually, if you’re in the business of walking a very fine line just this side of violating the constitutional separation of church and state, you ought to be very interested in the finer points of the church-state relationship. That quote belies an arrogance completely inappropriate for someone running an already questionable office

I added an update:

Given this statement from Joshua DuBois, I guess it’s not a surprise he wouldn’t speak to Kerry Eleveld for her recent article exposing how Obama has continued Bush’s faith-based policies. Some very right-wing and extremely discriminatory entities are benefiting from DuBois’ lack of concern about the “finer points” of the U.S. Constitution.

Apparently, DuBois’ comments caused a stir for others, too. He used the White House blog to rebut some of the criticism:

The President’s commitment in this regard has been unwavering. When he launched the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the White House noted:
As the priorities of this Office are carried out, it will be done in a way that upholds the Constitution – by ensuring that both existing programs and new proposals are consistent with American laws and values. The separation of church and state is a principle President Obama supports firmly – not only because it protects our democracy, but also because it protects the plurality of America’s religious and civic life.

The President and our Office put these words into action. We established an Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and charged a taskforce of church/state experts with addressing key issues related to faith-based partnerships with government.

Actually, that last line is misleading. Not all the key issues related to faith-based partnerships with government were addressed.

As Kerry Eleveld reported, the Advisory Council was specifically prohibited from addressing the issue of employment discrimination:

But from the very outset, the issue of religious discrimination in hiring practices was taken off the table and the group was explicitly advised not to engage the topic.

Rabbi David Saperstein, who also sat on the advisory council, talked about the exclusion of the employment discrimination matter at a June press conference arranged by Congressman Scott.

“The president did make the decision not to put the employment discrimination issue before the 25 diverse members of the council – he felt it was too controversial and he wanted to have it dealt with inside the administration,” Saperstein explained. “We argued … that we could really be of help to them because, if this group could reach agreement on this very controversial issue and how to deal with it, it would be of great assistance to them.”

The explanation for Obama’s decision was “a moving target” according to Lynn.

“It was just that it would raise additional complexities,” Lynn says, recalling the rationale that was generally offered, “there’ so much we might be able to agree about, we don’t want to burden you with this contentious issue.”

As Kerry noted, this conflicts with a campaign promise made by Obama:

When candidate Barack Obama laid out his plan on the campaign trail to revise the White House faith-based initiative established under President George W. Bush, he drew a line in the sand.

“If you get a federal grant, you can’t use that grant money to proselytize to the people you help and you can’t discriminate against them – or against the people you hire – on the basis of their religion,” Obama told a Zanesville, Ohio, crowd over three years ago on July 1, 2008.

Obama’s Faith-based Office has largely escaped attention. Kerry’s article is an important read for all those who care about the Constitution and about tax dollars funding discrimination. As Rabbi Saperstein said in that piece:

“No one should pay their tax dollars only to have the government turn that money over to a for-profit or nonprofit entity that would bar that very taxpayer from employment in that government funded program because of that taxpayer’s race, religion, national origin, gender, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation … That is morally wrong.”

It is morally wrong and should be barred by the constitution.

Last week, Dubois put the spotlight on himself with his remarks about “finer points.” His blog post raised more questions. And, the biggest question is why is DuBois running Obama’s Faith-based office under the same rules that Bush used?


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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