Obama and his faith council

From the beginning, we knew President Obama’s decision to appoint an Advisory Council for the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood … Continued

From the beginning, we knew President Obama’s decision to appoint an Advisory Council for the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships was going to catch flack. There was going to be scolding from the very strict separationists, cautioning against throwing open the doors of the state to the church. There was going to be critique from the punditry, claiming that we punted on the most divisive issues.

Like other Council members, I’ve had to respond to these criticisms countless times over the past year, on media interviews and during public talks. I’ve repeated over and over points that this Council is about partnerships between entities solving social problems – it was not assigned divisive issues like hiring in faith-based organizations, and our discussions and recommendations all took place in the context of great respect for the principle of church-state separation.

Now that my one year appointment on the Faith Council is over, I find myself asking a fundamental question: Assuming that the President was warned about the likely fire the Faith Council would draw, why did he appoint one?

After reviewing several of his speeches, including the inaugural address and the historic Cairo speech, re-reading his autobiography Dreams from my Father, and especially after his meeting with us in the West Wing to receive the final report and thank us for our service, I had an ‘Aha’ moment: The Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Advisory Council are deeply personal to this President. They bring together his life experiences and his core values in a unique way.

Barack Obama is a devoted father and also a son who grew up with a single mom. He converted to Christianity and became an active member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, a faith community with dozens of social action ministries. He was a community organizer, bringing together Protestants, Catholics and Muslims (under a Jewish mentor) to help renew neighborhoods devastated by factories leaving and crime rising. He was a Board member of the Woods Fund, a foundation in Chicago that gives grants to organizations improving the life of poor people in the city. He was constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School. And he was a legislator in the Illinois State Assembly.

Every single one of these pieces – family, faith-based social ministries, civil society organizations, interfaith cooperation, government, and church-state issues – is represented in the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the work of the Faith Council. Barack Obama’s vision of the good society is based on the idea of strong families, a vibrant civic sector that includes groups from various faith and secular backgrounds working together, and a government that serves as a catalyst, a convener and a capacity-builder, while always respecting the line between church and state.

And Barack Obama’s Faith Council gives me a vision for what active citizenship in that good society can look like.

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  • coloradodog

    “Faith Councils” have no place in government and should receive no government money unless they include representatives from all of the 4,300 different “faith groups” in the world including the pot smoking Rastafarians.

  • coloradodog

    The fact Obama “….became an active member of the..” racist, whitey hating Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago is certainly nothing to brag about.

  • YEAL9

    There are different opinions as to what a religion really is or what a non-profit is. To be fair therefore, there should be no tax-exemptions for any group and that includes the Democratic and Republican Parties. Faith and community initiative grant monies should also be cancelled and the Faith Council be eliminated. There should also be no tax deductions for contributions made to charities or non-profit groups like the Interfaith Youth Core.Would this generate the added taxes needed to pay for universal health care?? We await Mr. Patel’s response.

  • YEAL9

    “On June 9, 2009, in an interview with the Daily Press of Newport News, Wright indicated that he hadn’t had contact with Obama up to that point because “Them Jews aren’t going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter, that he’ll talk to me in five years when he’s a lame duck, or in eight years when he’s out of office.” Wright also suggested that Obama did not send a delegation to the Durban Review Conference in Geneva, a conference “that had devolved into an anti-Jewish free-for-all” according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency,[34] because of Jewish pressure saying: “[T]he Jewish vote, the A-I-P-A-C vote, that’s controlling him, that would not let him send representation to the Darfur Review Conference, that’s talking this craziness on this trip, cause they’re Zionists, they would not let him talk to someone who calls a spade what it is.”[7] Writing for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates characterized Wright’s remarks as “crude conspiratorial antisemitism.”[35] On June 11, 2009, Wright amended his remarks during an interview with Mark Thompson on his radio program, Make it Plain. “Let me say like Hillary, I misspoke. Let me just say: Zionists… I’m not talking about all Jews, all people of the Jewish faith, I’m talking about Zionists.”[36]ref: wikipedia

  • jshay

    Mr. Obama has no true faith. He uses religion as a tool for his own ends. Witness his many years sitting in the pews of Jeremiah Wright’s “church”. It’s unlikely Mr. Obama agreed with most of the useless drivel that came out of Mr. Wright’s mouth, but he sat and endured it because being in that church gave him some street-cred with the folks who could vote for him.

  • Christian1941

    This so-called “faith counsel” is just for show because America’s majority is religious and BO and his Chicago thugs thought it would probably look good – especially after the Wright fiasco. But please don’t expect us to believe that our organizer-in-chief is a Christian….not after spending 20+ years in Wright’s church listening as Wright was spouting such anti-Christian, anti-white, anti-Jew, anti-America hatred. Most of America is just not stupid enough to believe BO just didn’t understand or hear Wright correctly…..BO understood completely what was happening.

  • nhnh

    How little people know of Dr. Wright! Stop throwing stones! He has done great things in the name of Jesus Christ. As we all are, he is blessed and flawed.

  • Utahreb

    jshay – Are you saying that only Obama uses religion to his own ends? Guess you forget that Bush called the Iraq War a “Crusade” – I think that is the worst justification for so many dead and wounded.As to this article – who is going to address the problem of discrimination in hiring by the faith-based groups that are receiving our tax dollars? Anyone? Or will I continue paying for religious groups that discriminate? Division of church and state? Where is it?

  • Utahreb

    jshay – Are you saying that only Obama uses religion to his own ends? Guess you forget that Bush called the Iraq War a “Crusade” – I think that is the worst justification for so many dead and wounded.As to this article – who is going to address the problem of discrimination in hiring by the faith-based groups that are receiving our tax dollars? Anyone? Or will I continue paying for religious groups that discriminate? Division of church and state? Where is it?

  • YEAL9

    What the Faith Council should have said but did not: Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added “angels” and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers. This agenda continues as shown by the massacre in Mumbai, the assassinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, and the Filipino “koranics”.Current crises:The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

  • YEAL9

    “Abrahamic” religions are hallucination-based and it is now time to end the charade!!!!

  • EddietheInfidel

    “He converted to Christianity and became an active member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, a faith community with dozens of social action ministries.”And so, Mr. Patel, doesn’t this make him an apostate of Islam?From the Hadith:Ibn Abbaas (a cousin of Muhammad) said : The Messenger of Allah said, “Whoever changes his (Islamic) religion, kill him.”How do you rectify this statement from one of the core texts of Islam with your support of his “faith based” initiatives?

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