Back in the Bush Administration, Dubya created the "Office of Faith Based Initiatives," which was a sop to Christian ministries to get them some federal dollars for their food banks and other social welfare type activities. It was supposed to be part of Bush's "compassionate conservatism," but it quickly became mired in controversy.
First up, there were constitutional challenges to the office because of the whole separation of church and state thing. Some of the office's grant recipients clearly used the money to spread the gospel while helping the poor. Chuck Colson's prison ministry was specifically sued over use of government funds for evangelism.
But even worse, this office was exposed by a former Bush Staffer, David Kuo, as being a mere political grandstand to bring out evangelical Christian voters:
More seriously, Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly “nonpartisan” events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.
Nineteen out of the 20 targeted races were won by Republicans, Kuo reports. The outreach was so extensive and so powerful in motivating not just conservative evangelicals, but also traditionally Democratic minorities, that Kuo attributes Bush’s 2004 Ohio victory “at least partially … to the conferences we had launched two years before.”
With the exception of one reporter from the Washington Post, Kuo says the media were oblivious to the political nature and impact of his office’s events, in part because so much of the debate centered on issues of separation of church and state.
The Office of Faith Based initiatives included an "advisory council" of national religious leaders. Bush used to have a WEEKLY conference call with evangelicals, which is when Karl Rove's "The Crazies" moniker came to light.
But here's the deal: once a President creates an "Office of Faith" whatever, it's nearly impossible, politically, for any subsequent President to un-do that office. Especially a President that is attacked daily for not being a real Christian. Barack Obama has really had no choice but to continue a faith based advisory council....
and troll the hell out of the Religious right.
While Bush used his "faith office" to scoop up evangelical votes in targeted states, Obama has used the office to highlight diversity in America's religious fabric. The latest one-year appointments include, well, diversity. I am including the resumes of three to show that these aren't affirmative action appointments. These folks walk the talk, and have made great contributions to the fabric of our country with faith as the focal point of their work. The three individuals listed below are pictured above. Bios are from the White House website:
Naseem Kourosh is the Human Rights Officer at the U.S. Bahá'í Office of Public Affairs, a position she has held since 2011. In this position, Ms. Kourosh defends the rights of persecuted Bahá'í communities, works to advance international religious freedom, and engages with colleagues and partners in discourse and advocacy around human rights issues. Before joining the U.S. Bahá'í Office of Public Affairs, she practiced commercial litigation at law firms in New York City, clerked at the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, and worked with several human rights organizations. Ms. Kourosh received a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and a J.D. from the New York University School of Law.
Manjit Singh is the President of Agilious, a software technology consulting firm he founded in 2013. He is also co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a national Sikh American media, policy, and education organization. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation and also as a Member-at-Large on the Board of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. Mr. Singh received an M.S. from the State University of New York at Albany and a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Bombay, India.
Barbara Satin is the Assistant Faith Work Director for the National LGBTQ Task Force. She is an active member of the United Church of Christ and served on the denomination's Executive Council as its first openly transgender member. Ms. Satin recently worked on the development of Spirit on Lake, a LGBTQ senior housing project in Minneapolis. She served on the Board of Directors for OutFront Minnesota from 2001 to 2008 and has served as Chair of GLBT Generations since 1999. She has also served on the Board of Directors of PFund Foundation, a regional LGBTQ community foundation advancing social justice in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, since 2013.
It's probably unnecessary for me to tell C&L readers just how hair-on-fire the religious right is that Obama put a transgender person on the Faith Based Advisory council. This Google Search provides links to the outbursts from Breitbart, World Net Daily, the Blaze, and of course, Allen West (don't ever miss that one, it's a special kind of crazy).
But that's the loud outrage. Trust me, there's just as much disgust that an Iranian woman and Sikh man are installed as White House advisors on faith. This was supposed to be THEIR little office to get federal money to promote one religion only, right wing evangelical Christianity. (Not to mention to their efforts to defund women's healthcare and deny rights to LGBT citizens in the name of "religious freedom.") That Kenyan Usurper Muslim Barack Obama took their White House (twice!) and messed up their "evangelical outreach" with the non-Christians and the homosexuals.
We at Crooks and Liars are gonna miss him.