October 15th, 2010
07:41 PM ET

White House pushes back against faith office criticisms

CNN's Dan Gilgoff filed this report:

The White House pushed back Friday against allegations that President Barack Obama's faith office is abusing its power for political gain.

Responding to charges from former George W. Bush administration officials that a conference call Obama hosted with religious leaders on the new healthcare law crossed the line into political outreach, the White House said Friday that "there could hardly be a more appropriate audience," for such a call.

"When congregants fall ill, faith communities come together to support their brothers and sisters in need," White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Executive Director Joshua DuBois wrote on the White House blog.

"And when families struggle, they often turn to religious leaders for the spiritual and practical support to move forward," Dubois continued. "This is why faith leaders requested information about a new health care law ... "

The White House response came after former Bush aides publicly criticized the conference call, saying it was an example of Obama abusing the office to win political support from religious leaders.

"According to the White House website, the faith-based office exists 'to more effectively serve Americans in need,'" Jim Towey, who directed Bush's faith office, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last month. "I guess that now means Americans in need of Democratic talking points on health care."

"Do we really want taxpayer-funded bureaucrats mobilizing ministers to go out to all the neighborhoods and spread the good news of universal coverage?" he continued.

Towey also knocked Obama for asking the thousands of religious leaders on the call to become "validators," of the healthcare law, saying Bush would have fired him for using the faith office that way.

This week, another Bush official - former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson - spoke out against the office under Obama.

"I was involved in the faith-based office at the Bush administration and I think (Obama) has abused that office in political ways," Gerson told the Christian Broadcasting Network, "doing outreach on healthcare and other federal initiatives instead of focusing on what religious-based charities can do for the poor."

The White House acknowledged the criticisms Friday in its blog post, saying "former Bush Administration officials have taken to the airwaves to criticize (our) effort to reach out and engage communities of faith."

But DuBois stood by the office, which was launched by President Bush in 2001 and was retained by Obama, to the disappointment of some church-state separation advocates.

While the Bush office was aimed mostly at helping to "level the playing field" for faith-based and nonprofit groups applying for federal money to tackle problems like poverty and substance abuse, Obama's faith office has focused on non-financial relationships with faith and nonprofit groups.

Obama's office has promoted the president's Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative, sought common ground on abortion through a new Pregnancy Assistance Fund and has helped faith and community groups respond to the flu, DuBois said in his blog post Friday.

"There's no doubt that President Obama has taken a new approach to partnering with the faith community," DuBois wrote.

"Many have observed that the previous Administration's Faith-Based Initiative was focused squarely on dollars and cents - promising financial rewards for certain faith-based organizations," he continued. "Unfortunately, critics held that many of those funds failed to materialize and opportunities to engage in non-financial ways were missed."

Towey said Friday that suggestions that Bush's faith office doled out "financial rewards" to politically supportive religious groups are unfounded.

"The reality is that if you looked at federal dollars that went out the door, the overwhelming majority went to Democrat-sympathetic organizations," Towey, a Democrat, told CNN.

"If it's going to be a political outreach office to the faith community, every White House already has that - the office of political affairs," Towey said. "For us, that was on the Karl Rove side of the White House."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Church and state • Politics

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Muneef

    He the respectable president can not do or change any thing that the Masters of the World do not want to change, so please stop blaming the man who was him self shocked to find out that he was dreaming when thought to be able to make any change, he thought he had the power of the people to make a change but found out the people are not that powerful as well since believe any roamers and immediately change mind. Feel sorry for him he in my age and left handed like me but that is not the reason that I feel for him but really he was given a cow diseased country already she was and is on her knees financially and with open wounds bleeding. He is no wizard or sorcerer to make disappear as never was?
    To much to ask from a normal man and not a super man. Feel for him rather than depressing him with hurtful comments.

    October 17, 2010 at 8:57 pm |
  2. Chuck The Canuck

    Only in America does the electorate base its decision on who to vote for based upon the brand of religious delusion the candidate endorses.

    October 17, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  3. Reality

    Faith-based politics:

    From the Chicago Council on Global Affairs IRS Form 990:

    Investment holdings in publicly-traded securities, 2007-2008 tax period, $6,145,612. Dividends and interest from these investment for the same period, $705,970. Again, non-profit organizations pay no federal taxes on dividends, interest or capital gains. With such large investment holdings, are many non-profits simply a way to beat the political system by the directors of these groups?

    Director Josephine Heindel’s salary, $184,000 including savings plans. VP of Finance, Robert Cordes’ salary $159, 000 to include savings plans. Three other directors make in the range of $140,000/year.

    From above: Did Eboo Patel's Interfaith Youth Core work for Obama's election campaign as we see Eboo is not only on the recent Chicago Council of Global A-ffairs' task force but also on Obama's Faith advisory council?!

    Note: Mrs. Obama worked for the CCOGA and made about $100,000/yr. No doubt Mrs. O influenced Eboo's opp-ortun-ities?

    Did a Faith Initi-ative grant from the State Department help defray the cost of CCOGA's report and Mr. Patel's task force pay?

    October 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  4. Raison

    Considering some things this Administration has been doing, It seems clear enough to me that the President is not acting in the best interests of the country in "every" respect.
    But if he'd like to start taking a stand, a real stand and not these tiny crumbs while letting corruption stand tall over us, why, then, he will have my full support and I will gladly vote for him again.

    But this corruption has got to stop.
    And the massively overdone incarceration of non-violent offenders needs to be changed as well.
    We need those jail cells for violent offenders, not some guy who got caught with a joint.
    This calls for the serious reform of our pinched-brain drug laws. The Drug War did not work, as I never expected it to anyway, it was pretty obvious to everyone with any common sense not blinded by all the hype back then.

    But the hype is still strong – a very obvious "log" in the eyes of these religious types who might have lobbied the President to stop the up-coming vote in California to legalize marijuana.
    Now it has become, as it ever was with Medical Marijuana, the old "state's rights vs the Fed", diverting the issue away from where it really is.
    Politics. God, how I hate politics! I've hated politics my whole life for being filled with corruption ever since I learned what those words meant.

    You might wonder why I bother getting worked up about this, but I have had so many relatives die from cancer...who suffered horribly without the non-toxic benefits of Medical Marijuana...no, they had to take the Big-Pharma-brother's toxic "medicine" that was little better than straight poison.
    The side effects of these "manufactured" drugs frequently hastened their decline. And that kind of pisses me off, you see....

    But in the end, President Obama needs to remember that there are other people besides all of these ultra-wealthy "church" leaders seeking justice, equality under the law, and common sense in what our government does.
    Some of us voted for him.
    And we're still waiting for a good portion of Change with what's left of our Hope.

    October 16, 2010 at 11:27 am |
    • HotAirAce

      There should be no such office – separation of church and state and all that. But given what the Bush Admin did (funding faith based organziations), this is just standard religious hypocrisy. In addition to stopping to think (acceptance of blind faith), it seems that believers must also relinguish their conscience.

      October 16, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • honestanon

      Yeah, well that's all well and good. I agree on most counts. But what I really want to know, Raison, is how you seem to be the only one on these boards to get away with cussing... how is that?

      October 16, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • Raison


      What? You haven't ever typed a bad word here? You can say pretty much anything, just make sure you have those dashes or something to break up the word...:P

      October 16, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • honestanon

      Sure. You know what I mean.
      Apparently the lunatics are running the asylum.

      October 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • Raison


      Yeah, I know what you mean. Isn't it terrible? I mean how much empathy I have sometimes?

      LØL...Just kidding. You can do it too, but it's really technical stuff to make it past these filters. That's why I don't usually bother with it. It's a pretty big hassle. It's easier to just stick in a dash or a letter that resembles the one you're replacing...

      October 16, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • honestanon

      @ Raison

      Yeah, I figured that the html could be hacked and corrupted... and that means the controls are essentially disabled as well. Posts "magically" disappear. Or don't show at all, or date stamps change. Or posts that were in order are mysteriously out of order. So are you guys doing it, or is CNN? The point is it really doesn't matter, does it?

      So You've hacked the html,
      CNN won't respond to "Report abuse" tags for curses, nor respond to email request for clarification,
      Which means CNN is aware of the trick,
      Which means CNN is either sponsoring, employing, or is otherwise allowing the activity, and
      The activity is clearly a subtle form of control, confusion, and/or censorship.
      Furthermore, CNN is dropping persistent IP tracking cookies every time you visit the these blogs. Just FYI folks.

      So these blogs are a hoax, being subtly managed and controlled to favor a specific view, disfavor any detractors, and collect visitor information. My god. I thought you were all just a bunch of college kids trolling for kicks. How wrong I was. How incredibly embarrassed I am at how naive I was. Thank you for opening my eyes, Raison. You too, peace2all, Mark, David, Kate, and by any other names that you may post by.


      Based on the above, I would suggest to the general public that they not waste their time in CNN chats.
      And tell all your friends and legislators. This is absolutely Orwellian.

      October 17, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
    • Raison


      OMG! You need a course in computer security and skepticism!!!
      But I have jumped to conclusions myself, so I understand how easy it can be – especially when you are in an anonymous blog.

      I can only speak for myself, as I do not know what everyone else is doing here, and I am not an employee of anyone. I work for no person but myself and I am not in the business of doing anything but expressing my personal opinions without any underhandedness whatsoever.

      Google "html entlties" (with the "i" in its proper place) and you will find my mysterious trick that Kate told me about.
      It really is a pain in the ass to use, in my opinion, and I only use it when I want to see my words look more finished and correctly spelled.

      I did not want to encourage the use of it, but if it means so much to you as to make you completely paranoid about everything if I didn't tell you, then go ahead and use "html ent'ties" to put in those missing letters.

      For example: to show this, I will put spaces in between everything. If I printed it without the spaces, this string of characters would appear as the letter "i" that you could use in the middle of the word "sh-it"
      & – # 1 0 5 ;
      Google it and you'll find it easily in the common standards listed. Some websites even have little "testing grounds" to show how easy it works. But stopping in the middle of a furious typing session can put me off my stride, so I don't always use it.

      As for what CNN employees think of all this nonsense, I have no idea and can only marvel that they say absolutely nothing to us here about such things.

      On the other blogs, the filters are different, and I noticed that on the "This Just In" blog, they now have PAGES of comments instead of one long mess like we have here. That's new, so I guess there's someone out there. (sound of crickets?)

      When I say that you can post pretty much anything, I mean ANYTHING. I have seen that they DO get rid of spam and sometimes links to other websites and such, but as for straight text, why....you can say anything you like!

      On the other hand, anything too dangerous for CNN in terms of legal risk ARE often deleted, as they own the blog and only use this inconsistently. But this remains anonymous. Why couldn't I accuse you of being a secret CNN mole?

      By way of example, I saw, sometime back, a super-vicious post that people must have complained about furiously, for it disappeared quite suddenly – yet an almost identical post survived farther down the page. I can only shrug at that sort of goings-on.....

      To be honest, honestanon, I truly do think that a great many real people post their real opinions here. They let you do whatever sort of ad hominem attacks you were doing, yes? And yet you can still come here and do more.

      Where is the bias? Nowhere that I can see, unless it is in the choosing of what articles we are supposed to comment on.

      Don't be so paranoid. I could easily argue in the opposite direction as far as bias is concerned, but in the end it is the comments that are free, and if there are CNN employees trolling around, they hide it very well and do not show their hand.

      Please stop freaking out. I have enjoyed seeing you post here since you have calmed down over time. I, too, have calmed down a bit. But I still freak out from time to time, so feel free to argue with me. Just don't stalk people. I hope you understand that I do not like that since I have been a victim.
      Good luck. 😛

      October 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
  5. Muneef

    Do not see why not consult religious leaders about things related to Mercy to Humans when we talk about medical care or charities after all the Holy Books say to consult those who know more in religion check following verses:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    And We sent not before you (O Muhammad SAW) but men to whom We revealed, so ask the people of the Reminder [Scriptures – the Taurât (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel)] if you do not know. (7)
    Sura 21:07

    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    And We sent not (as Our Messengers) before you (O Muhammad SAW) any but men, whom We sent revelation, (to preach and invite mankind to believe in the Oneness of Allâh). So ask (you, O pagans of Makkah) of those who know the Scripture [learned men of the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)], if you know not. (43) 
    Sura 16:43

    October 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm |
    • David Johnson


      Why do you type: "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful" before you copy and paste from the holy books?

      Is it to convince Allah of these attributes? Or yourself?

      Just tryin' to learn.

      October 16, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • Muneef

      They are verses from different Sura's and therefore has to start with the name of God as an opening to be relayed to mankind.

      October 17, 2010 at 10:33 am |
  6. Marida Binsted

    President Obama: tell me it isn't so. When a 55 year old lost a $100,000 a year job after her company got bought out and she had worked for them for 14 years starting out as a receptionist and worked her way up the corporate ladder; spent months seeking a new job and had to take one 60 miles from her residence at a salary of $30,000.00 she reported to me that someone receiving her salary got an incentive bonus of $3,000 and your administration had the audicity to tax the $3,000 at 44%. That is ridiculous. You can go after the fat cat CEOs but why would you go after a single mom trying to hold onto her house and feed a child? That is plain cruel!!!

    October 15, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Marinda Binsted

      Yeah, a bonus is considered a luxury and is taxed at 44%. In my company, the price of what we sell has been pretty good even with the recession. Actually, over the last decade, the price has been good. We get quarterly bonuses. Grrrrr.....

      October 16, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  7. honestanon

    Looks like your hero is going to upset all you devout atheists. How to conflict the libby atheist contingent – Smooth, Barry, Real Smooth.

    October 15, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Doesn't upset me. The end justifies the means. I most definitely do not want the Christian Right puppets, the Republicans, to gain a majority. This would mean the beginning of a Christian theocracy. The mythical Jesus would be head of state. And only the Religious Right would be able to hear His voice. They would tell the rest of us His will.

      No thanks!

      October 16, 2010 at 10:43 am |
    • Matthew M

      "devout atheists" LOL good one.

      Any religious influence on our government needs to be put under intense scrutiny to make sure it does not violate the freedoms we enjoy.

      October 18, 2010 at 12:19 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.