The White House Religion Panel Gets It Right

There has been some bellyaching in recent months—including by me, and also especially in The Washington Post—over the relevance and influence of the task force of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (a god-awful mouthful of an administrative tag if ever there was one). This was a committee of about two dozen people, appointed by President Obama just over a year ago, asked to address some of the country’s most important values issues and make recommendations to the president. Rumors persisted that relations within the council were acrimonious and, given that council members had such differing views on questions of faith—they were progressive and conservative and were at odds over the best government role inside churches and other faith-based institutions—there was no way to hammer out any but the lowest-common-denominator type of resolution. The most persistent complaint, and the one that I continue to hear, is the worry that their recommendations, which they offered to the president this week, would not get a fair hearing at the highest levels of the administration.