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White House Director of Faith-Based Office Is Leaving His Post

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 12.39.44 PM President Obama announced on Thursday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington that Joshua DuBois, the young pastor he appointed four years ago to lead the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, would step down on Friday.

Mr. DuBois played a central role when Mr. Obama was making his first run for the presidency, cultivating relationships on his behalf with religious leaders of many faiths. Mr. DuBois, 30, has also served as an unofficial in-house pastor to Mr. Obama, sending the president an e-mail each morning with Bible passages intended to prompt reflection or prayer.

At the prayer breakfast, the president called Mr. DuBois a “close friend of mine and yours” who “has been at my side — in work and in prayer — for years now.”

He continued, “Every morning he sends me via e-mail a daily meditation — a snippet of Scripture for me to reflect on. And it has meant the world to me. And despite my pleas, tomorrow will be his last day in the White House.”

The faith-based office was started by President George W. Bush at the beginning of his first term, which proved contentious because many critics said the office and its actions often violated the constitutional separation of church and state. But Mr. Obama preserved the office and appointed advisory councils that represented a broad range of religious leaders, including conservative evangelicals and openly gay ministers.

Mr. DuBois, a black Pentecostal minister, steered the office toward engaging religious leaders to address broad social goals like reducing unwanted pregnancies, helping people cope with the economic downturn, encouraging fathers to take responsibility for their children and improving child and maternal health.

Some of the most prickly First Amendment issues facing the faith-based office were never resolved under Mr. DuBois’s tenure, most notably the question of whether religious organizations can receive government funding and still discriminate in hiring. The office last year released a report that did not propose definitive policies.

A White House official said that Mr. DuBois planned to teach at New York University, and would create an organization to help government, nonprofit and private institutions develop partnerships with religious groups to solve social problems. He will work with Michael Wear, his former assistant and the director of faith outreach for Mr. Obama’s second presidential campaign.

With Mr. Obama’s blessing, Mr. DuBois will also write a book of devotionals for leaders, based on those he sent to the president.

The Rev. Joel C. Hunter, the senior pastor of Northland, a network of churches based in Longwood, Fla., said that he observed significant changes in the faith-based office after Mr. Obama inherited it from Mr. Bush.

“Before it was basically about which organizations got funded,” said Mr. Hunter, who served on the first faith-based advisory council appointed by Mr. Obama. He said that Mr. DuBois focused on connecting religious leaders with policy makers, adding, “What has resulted is this accessibility to policy conversations by faith communities that really wasn’t there before.”

But the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who served on a task force at the faith-based office, said that Mr. DuBois’s tenure was “a lost opportunity to fix real constitutional problems,” such as government financing of religious organizations that discriminate in hiring or that serve the public in overtly religious settings.

FIND THIS ARTICLE AT: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/us/politics/white-house-director-of-faith-based-initiatives-will-step-down.html?_r=1&

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