The Brookings Institution held a 10th anniversary shebang for the federal government’s faith-based initiatives, with the executive director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua DuBois, as keynoter. Lest anyone in the crowd doubt that this White House is a lot more tuned into church-state separation than its predecessor, DuBois seeded his remarks with the following:
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We also found that legal and constitutional issues confronted the initiative. Issues like helping grantees appropriately segment their funds and insuring the protection of beneficiary rights were left unattended without a specific plan for addressing these crucial topics….
The other thing that helps us is a new focus on the legal and constitutional footing of our Office. We intentionally tasked the Advisory Council with formulating recommendations to improve this footing. When their final report is released it will include key advice on issues like developing easily accessible guidance for faith-based organizations that equally emphasize separation requirements as well as protections for religious identity; higher standards for transparency of federally-funded partnerships; and assuring that the rights of beneficiaries of federally-funded social services are protected. We also continue to work with our colleagues in government to take a clear-eyed approach to other difficult issues, including religious hiring. We know that there is a tremendous desire for finality on this topic, but we also know that due to its importance, decisions must be made carefully and with all due diligence. That’s a process we are in, and one we take very seriously.
In a word, the executive director is on board with the agenda of the Advisory Council’s task force on reform of the office. (The key player here is Wake Forest’s Melissa Rogers, head of that task force as well as of the entire Advisory Board, and one of the conveners of the Brookings affair.)
By way of news, DuBois announced that his office is “convening an interagency effort on religion and global affairs with the National Security Council, which will soon begin its work.” That effort could be interesting, if we ever find out anything more about it.