At least it doesn’t involve a mandate. The Obama White House has launched something called “The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge,” the point of which is to advance “Interfaith Cooperation and Community Service in Higher Education.” The White House is “encouraging” American colleges, community colleges, universities, seminaries and rabbinical schools to “commit” to a year of what is calls “interfaith service.”
Now, you may wonder why Obama’s faith-based officers think such a program is needed, since most campuses nowadays are already engaged, to one extent or another, in a version of “interfaith service.” It will be noted that institutions of higher education are places disproportionately populated by 2008 and likely 2012 Obama voters. Could it be that the President’s aides wish to ensure his presence, so to speak, on as many campuses as possible during the next year? Maybe there is no political calculation behind this program. But note its “timeline,” under which institutions accepting the “challenge” are to implement their initiatives during the academic year of 2011-12, with the most successful ones (as judged by the White House) winning recognition in the summer of 2012. Which is when the two parties hold their conventions and the presidential race starts to heat up.
The Nanny State raises its head in this voluntary program, and does so in sentences that could have used an editor’s pencil. Successful initiatives will “leverage traditional institutional structures like communications efforts, education and curricula, and training to improve the campus’ capacity to positively engage religious and non-religious diversity.” Appropriate interfaith service will “build social capital by bringing diverse groups together in action, strengthen social cohesion by promoting inter-religious understanding and a civility, and solve social problems by acting on the shared value of service.”
If you’d still like to advise the White House of your interest in participating in the interfaith challenge, you can do so by email to email@example.com.