Pastordan is a bit befuddled by Michelle Boorstein’s God in Government post reporting that the Advisory Council of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (OFANP) is not, after all, going to take up the thorny faith-based hiring issue. Since I reported a month ago that the Council was going to take it up, let me attempt some clarification. Back when OFANP was created, its director, Joshua DuBois, was widely quoted as saying that the hiring issue would be handled on “a case-by-case” basis. Indeed, DuBois said that to me on the record. (Unfortunately, he’s now not speaking on the record to reporters except after being cleared to do so by the White House office for clearing officials to speak with reporters.)
It made no sense to me at the time, and makes no sense to me now, how a case-by-case approach can be conducted without an actual articulation of what the new administration’s policy on the subject was. On what basis will cases be decided? During the campaign, Obama declared, simply, that there should be no discriminatory hiring by faith-based providers for government funded positions. Clearly, the White House has decided to walk that back–and quite apart from the politics, this is a more complicated question than some like to think. Anyway, a month ago I had it from a high White House source that the Council’s task force on “reform of the faith-based office” would be taking up the hiring issue. Now, as Boorstein reported, that won’t happen.
Why? My guess it has to do with a recognition of the legal complexities involved, the distance between Council members on the issue, and, one hopes, a recognition that this is for the administration itself to decide. One question worth pursuing with Jim Wallis and other center-right types who want to preserve the Bush permission for faith-based hiring discrimination is this: What kind of compromise would you be open to? Thus far, all I have seen is a willingness to refrain from proselytizing with government funds and an interest in proceeding via vouchers, such that the client gets to decide whether she wants a faith-based or secular program. But on the hiring issue per se, nada.