Following President Biden’s Valentine’s day 2021 signing of the Executive Order re-establishing the Whitehouse Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, many have speculated as to what we might expect. The following observations follow participation in stakeholder calls, briefings across a number of agencies as well as conversations with others in the pro-life, religious liberty and Christian worldview spheres.
The most obvious expectations result from Melissa Rogers’ return to service as Executive Director. Those who worked with Rogers during the Obama administration have confidence that she will continue to work collaboratively with anyone and everyone across the ideological spectrum on common concerns including international religious liberty and persecuted religious minorities.
Notable changes include:
- Dropping the words “faith-based” and abbreviating the name of the office to “White House Partnerships Office.
- Emphasis being placed on how faith-based and other community based organizations can be utilized as a distribution, education and even advocacy network by the Biden administration.
- Emphasis on leveraging partnerships “to address the needs of, and lift up, low-income and other underserved persons and communities, notably including persons of color.”
- Expect to hear the refrain that “fundamental constitutional commitments” will be preserved even as faith-based and other community partners become points of distribution for government programs and services.
- The WH Partnerships office will be supported by the Domestic Policy Council and the Office of Public Engagement with three principle related people: Melissa Rogers, Josh Dickson and Ben Odell.
It is clear that the core commitment is not hearing from nor furthering the effectiveness of faith based organizations but the utilization and leverage of community based organizations of all kinds – including those that are faith based – to advance the administration’s core concern of “serving people in need.”
Leading off is the push by the Partnerships office for faith-based organizations to work to build community support for Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID rescue plan which was described as the necessary foundation upon which other program priorities could only then be constructed (race, child care, elder care, healthcare, abortion, immigration, climate, etc.) Partners are also being asked to support vaccination efforts and to become points of distribution as part of the vaccine roll out.
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