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White House

Office of the Press Secretary  February 5, 2009 - Obama Announces White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships - Washington (February 5, 2009) – President Barack Obama today signed an executive order establishing the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. They will work on behalf of Americans committed to improving their communities, no matter their religious or political beliefs.

"Over the past few days and weeks, there has been much talk about what our government’s role should be during this period of economic emergency. That is as it should be – because there is much that government can and must do to help people in need," said President Obama. "But no matter how much money we invest or how sensibly we design our policies, the change that Americans are looking for will not come from government alone.

There is a force for good greater than government. It is an expression of faith, this yearning to give back, this hungering for a purpose larger than our own, that reveals itself not simply in places of worship, but in senior centers and shelters, schools and hospitals, and any place an American decides."

The White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will be a resource for nonprofits and community organizations, both secular and faith based, looking for ways to make a bigger impact in their communities, learn their obligations under the law, cut through red tape, and make the most of what the federal government has to offer.

President Obama appointed Joshua DuBois, a former associate pastor and advisor to the President in his U.S. Senate office and campaign Director of Religious Affairs, to lead this office. "Joshua understands the issues at stake, knows the people involved, and will be able to bring everyone together – from both the secular and faith-based communities, from academia and politics – around our common goals," said President Obama.

Key Priorities

The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will focus on four key priorities, to be carried out by working closely with the President’s Cabinet Secretaries and each of the eleven agency offices for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships: * The Office’s top priority will be making community groups an integral part of our economic recovery and poverty a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete.

* It will be one voice among several in the administration that will look at how we support women and children, address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion.
* The Office will strive to support fathers who stand by their families, which involves working to get young men off the streets and into well-paying jobs, and encouraging responsible fatherhood.
* Finally, beyond American shores this Office will work with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world.

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 Executive Order President Obama will sign today strengthens this by adding a new mechanism for the Executive Director of the Office to work through the White House Counsel to seek the advice of the Attorney General on difficult legal and constitutional issues.

Members of the Council include:
Anju Bhargava, a management consultant and Hindu priest who was born in India, is president and founder of New Jersey-based Asian Indian Women in America, Inc., an organization representing Indian-American women in public and professional life. She also is an organizer for Hindu American Seva Charities, which promotes Indian-Americans' involvement in service projects. Bhargava advised Obama on the June 2009 speech the president delivered in Cairo, Egypt, that called for worldwide Muslim engagement. She also serves on the economic recovery and fighting poverty task force.

Dalia Mogahed is a senior analyst for and executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, a nonpartisan research center that analyzes the views of Muslims worldwide. Born in Egypt, Mogahed is among the first Muslim women to advise a president. As a researcher, she has collected and disseminated information to help people of different faiths and cultures forge relationships.

Ebrahim "Eboo" Patel is founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that encourages youth to participate in interfaith community service. Patel, a Muslim born in India, advised Obama on the June 2009 speech the president delivered in Cairo, Egypt, that called for worldwide Muslim engagement.

Pew Forum

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships -  August 18, 2009 The central White House office and satellite offices in 12 government agencies work together to encourage partnerships between the government and religious and community groups for the delivery of social services.

The White House office, led by executive director Joshua DuBois, has identified four primary goals:
* Connecting faith-based and community groups to economic recovery
* Promoting interfaith dialogue and cooperation
* Encouraging responsible fatherhood and healthy families
* Reducing unintended pregnancies and the need for abortions, strengthening maternal and child health, and encouraging adoptions

To address these policy goals, Obama also has established a 25-member President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to make recommendations to the president on how to improve government partnerships with faith-based and community organizations. Members of the council represent a variety of religious traditions and policy positions and serve one-year terms. The current council members will issue their final report to the president in February 2010.

Council members serve on at least one of six task forces. Each task force will explore and outline ways to expand the impact of faith-based and community organizations in specific policy areas.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has compiled short descriptions of the goals of each the six task forces as well as brief biographies of the advisory council members who serve on each task force:
* Economic Recovery and Fighting Poverty Task Force
* Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation Task Force
* Fatherhood and Healthy Families Task Force
* Reforming the Faith-Based Office Task Force
* Environment and Climate Change Task Force
* Global Poverty, Health and Development Task Force

Read the full report http://www.pewforum.org

Election Impact

A Look at Religious Voters in the 2008 Election - The United States has a long tradition of separating church from state, yet a powerful inclination to mix religion and politics. Throughout our nation's history, great political and social movements – from abolition to women's suffrage to civil rights to today's struggles over abortion and gay marriage – have drawn upon religious institutions for moral authority, inspirational leadership and organizational muscle. In recent years, religion has been woven more deeply into the fabric of partisan politics than ever before.

The Pew Forum offers a variety of resources that probe the relationship between religion and politics, including reports, event transcripts, polling data and news clips. Some of the nation's leading journalists gathered in Key West, Fla., in December 2008 for the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life's biannual Faith Angle Conference to look at the impact of religious voters in the 2008 election.

John Green, a senior fellow in religion and American politics at the Pew Forum, discussed how a small change overall in voting behavior among religious groups had a big impact at the ballot box. Green said that the Democrats and Barack Obama made their largest gains among minority religious groups but that Obama made only modest gains among white Christian groups. Although these shifts were enough to put Obama in the White House, they did not change the overall structure of the faith-based vote compared with 2004.

Anna Greenberg, senior vice president for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, said that Obama's faith was the main religious narrative of the campaign. But that debate wasn't necessarily about religion itself, she said, but a stand-in for a conversation about Obama -- who he was, where he came from, what values he represented.

Another ongoing theme was whether Obama could win votes among the more-conservative religious groups. Greenberg cited polling data showing that younger evangelicals were more likely to support Obama than older evangelicals and that the under-30 set was more progressive on the issues of climate change and gay marriage.
In the following edited excerpt, ellipses have been omitted to facilitate reading. Read the full transcript, including follow-up discussion, at pewforum.org.

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