President Obama’s official liaison to faith-based organizations is leaving, Obama announced Thursday, shaking up an office that expanded significantly from the George W. Bush years but still faced critics who said it needed more stature among White House policy-shapers.
Joshua DuBois, 30, is leaving the White House to author a book of devotionals for leaders based on the ones he sends the president each day. DuBois will also be teaching at New York University.
Supporters saw DuBois as a gifted, spiritually motivated policy wonk who could help Democrats establish progressive faith as a movement the way religious conservatives did for the GOP decades ago.
But others questioned his lack of experience and thought that if the office had more standing in the White House, it might have eased public clashes with conservatives in particular, such as the one with the Catholic Church over the new health-care law’s requirement that employers provide contraception to employees or the one over Pastor Louie Giglio, a conservative who was picked and then stepped down as inaugural benediction speaker after a sermon condemning gays and lesbians went viral.
DuBois was 26 and had worked on campaign faith outreach when Obama picked him to run the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
DuBois said he was enthusiastic about his plans. Obama, in announcing the move at the National Prayer Breakfast, said DuBois was leaving “despite my pleas.”
Some watchers of Democratic faith outreach said they hope that the White House will pick a more senior person and that the office will become a more prominent engine for organizing faith-based activists for matters such as climate change, immigration and gun control.
Obama’s faith office expanded to 13 federal agencies from when President Bush was in office. The staff grew from about 30 to 45, and Obama created a faith-based advisory council of leaders from faith-based social service organizations. It led college campus programs on interfaith issues and worked to help faith-based programs helping fathers. It also created a program to train State Department workers abroad on religion and foreign policy.