Melissa Rogers, a council member and attorney at the Wake Forest School of Divinity who deals with the separation between church and state, adds, “Our jobs would include getting the word out about what programs and benefits exist through the stimulus.” The comprehensive approach, plus the diverse affiliations and expertise within the advisory council, could prove beneficial in identifying organizations through which to distribute the stimulus billions.
The White House says that non-financial partnerships–with organizations that provide counseling on nutrition, financial literacy, or higher education–will be part of the mandate, and that faith-based and secular organizations will be “helping the federal government extend both information and services to those in need.” The broadened portfolio is another departure from the office under Bush: “The faith-based office was their antipoverty program; there was nothing else to it,” said advisory council member Wallis. “They’d lift up a child development center in a church and then they would close Head Start. They’d do a clinic on the west side of Chicago and then cut S-CHIP.”
The stimulus money will be the first test of a broader, more empowered faith-based crusade. Perhaps the dire economic straits will create room for ambitious outreach, unencumbered by the political baggage of the recent past.
Dayo Olopade is the Washington Reporter for The Root.
Read the washingtonpost.com Live Online discussion on A FAITH-BASED FIX with The Root‘s Washington reporter Dayo Olopade.