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My Meeting with the White House Faith-Based Office
April 27, 2009
I am writing to tell you about my meeting last week, along with other representatives of CARD (Coalition Against Religious Discrimination), with Joshua DuBois, the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
I entered the meeting with very mixed emotions. Although I was glad that the Secular Coalition for America has the political connections to meet face-to-face with the person who runs President Obama's new faith-based office, I was saddened that this meeting was even taking place -- saddened that our new president has decided to continue the failed faith-based policies of his predecessor.
The meeting was an open and often lively discussion of our concerns -- and each of us clearly expressed our disappointment that the Obama administration had decided to continue Bush's faith-based program without first dealing with the critical constitutional and civil rights problems it presents: direct funding of houses of worship, religious discrimination in hiring, and entangling secular and sectarian program content.
I left the meeting with the same kind of mixed feelings I had going in. One the one hand, Mr. DuBois seemed sympathetic to our constitutional and civil rights concerns; on the other, it's clear we will have a long wait to see if and how these concerns are going to be addressed. Nearly three months after he was appointed to run it, DuBois told us the new faith-based office is still getting organized and they are just beginning their information collection and policy review.
Unfortunately, until this process is complete, faith-based programs will continue to operate under the Bush administration rules.
We face a very difficult challenge in getting this administration to address all our concerns, so we will continue to put pressure on the White House -- but this meeting did reinforce that we do now have a place at the table.
As the cover story in the National Journal recently reported,
In the past, politicians in Washington and elsewhere could largely ignore the Godless. But those days are over. With their numbers growing, nonbelievers are intent on pushing a political and legislative agenda governed more by cool reason than by faith.
Thank you for your support and efforts that have helped to make this and many other meetings possible.
Ron Millar, Acting Director
Secular Coalition for America
P.S. The Secular Coalition for America represents the interests of atheists, humanists, agnostics, freethinkers and other nontheists in our nation's capital. According to the latest ARIS study, our community is larger than Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Mormons and Jews - combined.