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Last week President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, appointed Joshua DuBois as a presidential special assistant and executive director of the renamed White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, issued an executive order expanding the role of the renamed office, created a new Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and appointed its initial members.

In this flurry of action, we see five encouraging signs, and are also left with one major concern.

One encouraging development is the appointment of Joshua DuBois as a special assistant to the President and the executive director of the faith-based office. DuBois — a 26-year-old former Pentecostal minister with a master's degree in public policy from Princeton — served on both Obama's Senate and campaign staffs, and is reportedly close to the President. He knows the American religious landscape well and has on many occasions included evangelicals in policy deliberations.

A second encouraging sign is the use of "partnership" language in both the title of the office and at numerous points in the executive order. A partnership involves two parties working together, not a relationship dominated by government.

Third, the Obama executive order gives the new office and advisory council a broad mandate that includes initiatives evangelicals can applaud. These include a fatherhood initiative — something vital, since the strongest anti-poverty measure is intact two-parent families — and a focus on reducing abortions. President Bill Clinton used to say that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare," but once in office seemed to stress the "safe and legal" commitments, not the promise that they become "rare." Although ...

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A Promising Start for Obama's Faith-Based Office
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February 2009

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