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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Video: Barack Obama on Faith

Obama goes where no Democrat has dared tread before: religion.

From Politico:

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) plans to slam President Bush’s faith-based program as “a photo op” and a failure on Tuesday, and says he would scrap the office and create a new Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships that would be a “critical” part of his administration.

Obama, unveiling a plan to overhaul and expand Bush’s faith-based program during remarks at a community ministry in Zanesville, Ohio, said the White House Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives — which Bush founded during his second week in office — “never fulfilled its promise.”

“Support for social services to the poor and the needy have been consistently underfunded,” Obama says in prepared remarks. “Rather than promoting the cause of all faith-based organizations, former officials in the Office have described how it was used to promote partisan interests. As a result, the smaller congregations and community groups that were supposed to be empowered ended up getting short-changed.”

Obama was referring to accusations by John J. DiIulio Jr., the office’s first director, and David Kuo, his former deputy, that White House support for the program was driven more by swing-state politics than by compassion for the needy.

The White House views the office as one of the cornerstone's of Bush's legacy, making Obama's vow a very personal one.

Reaching out to evangelicals who are nonplussed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Obama declared: “I still believe it’s a good idea to have a partnership between the White House and grass-roots groups, both faith-based and secular. But it has to be a real partnership — not a photo op. That’s what it will be when I’m president. I’ll establish a new Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.”

“The new name will reflect a new commitment,” he continued. “This Council will not just be another name on the White House organization chart — it will be a critical part of my administration.”

The campaign listed four goals:

—Train the trainers to enable local faith-based organizations to learn best practices, grant-making procedures and service delivery so that they can better apply for and use federal dollars.

—Partner with state and local offices so that federal efforts build on successes made at the state and local level.

—Hold recipients responsible by conducting rigorous performance evaluation, researching what works well and disseminating best practices.

—Close the summer learning gap by focusing faith-based and community-based efforts on summer learning programs for 1 million children.

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