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Pick for faith-based office earns praise

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama tapped a 26-year-old former campaign staffer to head his Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Joshua DuBois, who worked on faith outreach in Obama’s U.S. Senate office and during the presidential campaign, was praised by both a supporter and a critic of the faith-based initiative, which provides government funds to religious social service groups.

Orthodox Union public policy director Nathan Diament called DuBois an "excellent choice."

"Joshua not only knows the people, but he also knows the key policies that concern the faith communities very well," Diament said. Perhaps most significant, Diament added, is that DuBois "has President Obama’s trust and will be able to ensure that the council will have appropriate impact upon the Obama administration’s policy discussions."

Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, also praised DuBois as "an extraordinarily bright, thoughtful and competent professional" who did a "superb job in faith outreach" during the campaign.

"Josh is an excellent choice," he said.

Still, Saperstein would have preferred that Obama scrap the faith-based council, even though the new president has vowed to revamp an office that was opened under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

"We thought that the faith-based office was not necessary and creates more problems," he said. But "it’s a valid judgment call" by the new administration, Saperstein said, noting that Obama has promised to insure certain "constitutional protections" in terms of "respecting the separation of church and state." They include not allowing recipients of federal funds to discriminate in hiring by taking religion into account.

Obama has indicated that the new office will not just distribute grants to religious and community groups, but also look for other ways to involve those groups in working on social issues and problems.

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