On Thursday, President Trump signed an Executive Order establishing the “White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative” within the Executive Office of the President. The order states the purpose is to ensure faith-based and community organizations “have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the Federal Government.”
The order renames and reinstitutes an office first created by President George W. Bush. In 2001, the first executive order signed by President Bush established the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the White House. His second order led to the creation of Faith-Based and Community offices at 11 federal agencies. These offices were tasked with the mission of lowering the legal and institutional barriers that prevented government and faith-based groups from working as partners.
In 2009, President Obama renamed the office to the “Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships” and established an advisory council comprised of members with “with experience and expertise in fields related to the provision of social services by faith-based and other neighborhood organizations.”
Until last week, President Trump had not rescinded the orders by Bush and Obama, but had not named a director and the website for the office was removed. The new order revokes the previous orders on faith based initiatives by both Bush and Obama.
The new Initiative will be tasked with:
• Providing recommendations on the Trump Administration’s policy agenda affecting faith-based and community programs;
• Providing recommendations on programs and policies where faith-based and community organizations may partner and/or deliver more effective solutions to poverty;
• Apprising the Trump Administration of any failures of the executive branch to comply with religious liberty protections under law; and
• Reducing the burdens on the exercise of free religion.
The Initiative will be led by the newly created position of Advisor to the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative and be supported by experts and various community and faith leaders from outside of the Federal Government, says the White House. All executive departments and federal agencies that do not already have Centers for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives will designate a liaison to the Initiative.