The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



DuBois looks at religious issues

Jim Ferlmann | Monday, September 28, 2009

The government needs to make contact with non-profit groups to help shape faith-based initiatives from the federal level, The Rev. Joshua Dubois said Monday.

Dubois, a Pentecostal minister and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, spoke to an audience of about 50 students, faculty and community members at Geddes Hall auditorium.

“President Obama’s logic behind the re-launching of this office is based on two foundational concepts,” Dubois said. “The first is that we are facing significant challenges in our nation and across the globe. The second thing is that we can meet these challenges, but we can’t do it in Washington alone.”

DuBois stressed the importance of the government enlisting the help of non-profit groups.

“Instead, it’s incumbent upon us in the government to connect with the real change agents: the churches that are feeding the hungry. The non-profits that are giving dropouts a second chance and helping prisoners.”

According to DuBois, universities and colleges can play a major role in reform.

“That’s where change happens: with community serving institutions and faith-based groups. With you,” he said.

He said he would like for his office to connect with smaller organizations to bring about change.

“My office is a facilitator to provide a link between the government and the grassroots, and to help organizations across the country connect with one another, strengthen their own capacity to serve, and have a greater impact on their communities,” DuBois said.

He did point out however, that this theory has its issues.

“The problem is that when the government and religion have gotten together in the past, even if it was with the best of intentions, it hasn’t always ended up roses,” DuBois said.

Dubois stressed that his federal office, while working with and funding faith communities, was working within the bounds of the First Amendment of the Constitution. The communities could only use the federal dollars given to them to aid in their community service efforts, and not to explicitly further their own religious agendas.

DuBois also said his office was not an advocate for the president’s agendas, but there were still points in which political conjecture made its way into the lecture, especially concerning the health care debate.

During a question-and-answer session, he was asked about what his biggest goal was before the end of President Obama’s term. Dubois said, “We want to impact the way that the government sees this office and its own relationship with faith-based groups that’s not standoffish, as it sometimes was before President Bush established this office. Also, it scope of aid should extend beyond grant money to a broader notion of effective partnership.”