Archives For Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

The following is a news bulletin from the Pagan Newswire Collective that was posted a short time ago to the Pagans at the Parliament blog by PNC correspondent Ed Hubbard. I’m reprinting it in its entirety below.

(Ed Hubbard, PNC, Melbourne Australia) On December 8, 2009, Obama Administration officials from the Justice and Faith-Based Initiative offices, met with select members of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. It was a small meeting of approx. 50 members from various faiths. Patrick McCollum, of Circle Sanctuary [and Cherry Hill Seminary], one of the principal advocates of Pagan based ministry, was invited to partake and speak during this meeting. He was among religious and spiritual leaders from multiple faiths including Native American, Australian Aboriginals, as well as contingents from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhists communities.

According to Rev. McCollum, the meeting was about how the Obama Administration can advance Interfaith relations in the United States. After McCollum’s discussion, officials from the White House sought him out, to have him meet with top officials of the administration to discuss how to limit discrimination and promote Interfaith education in the United States as well as internationally. Upon his return to the states, Patrick McCollum may be able to meet with members with the Justice department as well as the Offices of Faith Based Initiatives to discuss the many outstanding situations that are currently within the American court system.

This has been an advance forward for the Interfaith cause and for Pagans everywhere.

Needless to say, this is huge news, and a big step forward for the equal treatment of Pagan religions in America. McCollum recently made the news for his lawsuit against the California prison system’s “five faiths policy”, which has gained support from a variety of prominent religious organizations. Before that, McCollum appeared before the US Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, DC, to speak at a briefing focused on prisoners’ religious rights. You can read the remarks he made at that hearing, here. I will be keeping  a close eye on this situation, and hope to bring more news soon.

ADDENDUM: More on the meeting from Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary.

When asked about this meeting, Patrick said “I am thankful that the Obama administration’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships participated in this year’s Parliament, held this meeting, and asked for and listened to input. International interfaith dialogue and collaboration are essential for bringing about a better world.” When asked about the Parliament as a whole, he said, “One of the best things about the Parliament has been meeting leaders from other faiths and creating friendships and alliances that will far transcend this event. It was obvious from the discussions that world faith leaders have common concerns and have moved to a place in history where they recognize the value of working together toward the common good rather than being at odds with each other. This brings me great hope!”

Again, more on this as I have it.

Word has leaked that Barack Obama’s campaign director for religious-affairs, Joshua DuBois, has been tapped to lead up the revamped Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (now called the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships). DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor, was raised by James Dobson-listening conservative parents and spearheaded Obama’s efforts to reach out to socially conservative evangelicals and Catholics.

President Obama plans to name Joshua DuBois, a 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor and political strategist who handled religious outreach for the Obama campaign, to direct a revamped office of faith-based initiatives, according to religious leaders who have been informed about the choice. The office, created by President George W. Bush by executive order at the start of his first term, is likely to have an even broader mandate in the Obama White House, said the religious leaders, who requested anonymity because the appointment has yet to be announced.

The big question now is if DuBois will do a better job reaching out to religious minorities than some of his predecessors under President Bush. Will this younger man be more tuned in than Jim Towey? The man who famously questioned whether Pagans could be charitable or help the poor.

“I haven’t run into a Pagan faith-based group yet, much less a Pagan group that cares for the poor! Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can’t be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it”.

While Towey did eventually backtrack somewhat from his anti-Pagan gaffe, you have to wonder if DuBois, who has been cagey about his personal stands on hot-button issues (not to mention his views of other faiths), will be much better. Can a man focused so heavily on conservative and traditional Christians also reach out to Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans, and indigenous faith traditions? Will this revamped initiative bring all faiths to the table? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see, but the Obama administrations first forays into faith have been decidedly mixed to say the least. What do you think? Will the new faith-based initiative be fairer and more inclusive under a Democratic administration? Should Obama have even kept the office around?