This morning at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Barack Obama announced the expansion of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The president told the gathering of religious and political leaders that faith has often been used as a weapon and his program will not do this.
We have seen faith wielded as a tool to divide us from one another—as an excuse for prejudice and intolerance. Wars have been waged. Innocents have been slaughtered. For centuries, entire religions have been persecuted, all in the name of perceived righteousness.
The full text of the president's speech here.
Obama will sign an executive order later today that creates the White House Office on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. This fulfills a campaign promise to expand and refocus the faith-based office created by former President George W. Bush. Obama says the program will not favor any one religious group over another, will work with neighborhoods and will act "without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state."
The original faith-based office created in 2002 by an executive order issued by Bush allowed religious organizations to discriminate against gays and lesbians with public money—and this outraged many in the LGBT community. Obama's executive order "does not rescind Bush's provision to allow faith-based groups to discriminate in their hiring practices" but will provide a legal framework to ensure hiring is legal and non-discriminatory. LGBT leaders are concerned.
Joe Solmonese at Human Rights Campaign: "While we deeply respect the faith community’s contributions to caring for the most vulnerable among us, using federal money to discriminate would sacrifice our commitment to equality for every American."
This new office includes an interfaith council of religious leaders and will be led by Joshua Dubois, the 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor and political strategist who managed religious outreach for Obama's presidential campaign. Dubois was responsible for the pivotal campaign appearance of the "ex-gay"—or perhaps merely re-closeted—Pentecostal evangelist and gospel singer Donnie McClurkin. At the time Dubois claimed he hadn't "vetted" McClurkin and wasn't aware of the fellow Pentecostal pastor's prominent ex-gay and anti-gay platform.
The faith-based initiatives have a mixed record in the black gay community. More churches have received federal funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and support. However, many black gay activists and HIV/AIDS advocates have criticized the White House for granting funding to anti-gay ministries—such as the Rev. Willie Wilson, Washington DC's notoriously homophobic pastor, who announced from the pulpit "faggots or sissies" were not real men. Hopefully this record will improve under President Obama.
Some Background ...
Obama Will Expand and Rename Faith-Based Office [R20]
Report: "Abstinence Only" Policy Spreads HIV, Death [R20]
Bush Admin Funding Anti-Gay Groups in Uganda [R20]
How Do Churches Provide HIV/AIDS Support? [R20]
Should Homophobic Churches Receive HIV Funding? [R20]
Black Baptist Convention FINALLY Mentions AIDS [R20]
Rev. Willie Wilson Outed [Keith Boykin]
Ending Black Homophobia Will Reduce HIV [R20]
Bishop: "No Faggots or Sissies" [Rod 2.0]
Primetime Reports Black HIV Epidemic [After Elton]
"Out of Control: AIDS in Black America" [R20]