Over the past few months, the Obama administration has come under intense criticism for its treatment of religious freedom issues. In addition to the president’s highly-publicized battle with the Catholic Church, The Blaze has covered angst among faith leaders over the administration’s faith advisory council, which critics claim has “gone dark.” Now, after progressive Christian leaders were beginning to express frustration with an empty campaign slot for a faith outreach manager, the Obama camp has finally selected someone for the role.
Among the more notable attributes possessed by the new religious outreach director, Michael Wear, is his youth. The 23-year-old, who interned during the president’s 2008 campaign, is an evangelical whose age could bring innovation and vibrancy to the campaign’s religious outreach projects.
Wear, who graduated from George Washington University with a B.A. in political science last year, will turn 24 this Wednesday. He will also move to Chicago in the coming days to fulfill his duties. Wear’s official title in the campaign will apparently be “Faith Vote Director.” CNN has more:
Wear, who was raised a Catholic but now attends a nondenominational, evangelical-style church in Washington, has spearheaded White House outreach to evangelicals and has focused on policy issues like adoption throughout Obama’s first term
Joshua DuBois, the executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, directed religious outreach for the Obama campaign in 2008. Before that, it was unusual for Democratic presidential campaigns to hire faith outreach staffers.
“It has been an honor working with Michael Wear to create positive faith-based and nonprofit partnerships to serve people in need,” DuBois said on Monday of his departing assistant.
The Post goes on to say that Wear is married and that he grew up in Buffalo, New York. The young evangelical worships at the National Community Church in Washington, D.C., the outlet reports.
Wear was — before taking his new role — an assistant in the White House office responsible for working with faith-based social service groups (Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships). His appointment this week will appease some religious progressives who have charged that faith concerns have not been a big enough priority for Obama’s re-election team.
The time that it took to fill the role as well as Wear’s youth are certainly factors worth considering. As for the former issue, some are questioning whether faith outreach truly is a priority for the Obama camp. Wear’s age, while it may serve as beneficial in terms of fresh perspective and better relations with younger people of faith, also comes with a potential price — a lack of contacts in the religious sphere.
“Michael has spent a number of years in the faith-based office so he knows the territory” political author Amy Sullivan told Religion News Service. “But the Republicans would put somebody senior with years and years of experience and a big Rolodex in that position. And I guess that tells you something about how Democrats still view faith outreach and its importance.”
Wear’s appointment comes at a difficult time for the president, as there’s no telling how his announcement last week proclaiming his support for same-sex marriage will impact his electoral prospects. As we’ve noted, Obama is already getting push-back from many African American faith leaders who previously supported him. The White House is denying that the timing of the announcement and Wear’s hiring are related.