Melissa Rogers, the executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, met Friday with leaders of six secular organizations: Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Center for Inquiry, Secular Coalition for America, and Ex-Muslims of North America.
None of them are religion-friendly and some are positively militant in their agenda. They expressed their displeasure with the pro-religious liberty policies of the Trump administration, accusing it of fomenting "Christian nationalism." The creation of this fiction is central to the anti-religion politics that drives these groups.
It would be one thing if White House staffers in domestic policy or civil rights invited representatives of these six organizations to discuss their concerns; it is quite another when those who purport to work with people of faith do so. The problem is traceable to Feb. 14, the day Biden issued his executive order establishing his faith-based program.
It was President George W. Bush who founded a White House office of faith-based initiatives. He realized how effective these programs were in the delivery of services to the needy. He also knew that government programs, which are typically distant from those whom they serve, would be enhanced by partnering with these religious agencies. That is why he sought to put an end to government policies that shunned these entities.
President Obama pursued a more secular approach, effectively gutting the faith element in faith-based programs. Trump restored and strengthened the Bush model. Now Biden is picking up where the Obama-Biden administration left off.
On February 14, the White House announced that the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships "will not prefer one faith over another or favor religious over secular organizations (my italics)." But the whole point of creating an office of faith-based programs was to prioritize religious social service agencies. Thus did Biden set in motion what happened on May 14.
If the Biden administration is going to manipulate the founding purpose of faith-based initiatives by welcoming the advice of militant secularists, it should do us all a favor and simply trash this office. It is obviously a bust.
Bill Donohue is president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. He was awarded his Ph.D. in sociology from New York University and is the author of eight books and many articles.