NORFOLK, Va. -- Faith communities play a vital role in economic recovery.
With that belief in mind, the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives recently hosted a faith and neighborhoods in action symposium at Norfolk State University in Hampton Roads.
The office, established under President George W. Bush, was designed to help faith-based groups receive federal funds to help better their communities.
"It's absolutely essential - if we're going to tackle the biggest problems facing our country, President Obama believes we have to do that in partnership with faith-based organizations," said Joshua DuBois, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Though many believed Obama would shut down the office after becoming president, it remains open.
Still, some conservatives are appalled at the direction the office has taken under the Obama administration, saying it has actually become hostile toward religious charities.
"I think it has become a faith-based farce. The office has become nothing but a political outreach shop that has led the charge to trample on the religious rights of faith-based organizations," former faith-based initiatives director Jim Towey told CBN News.
For instance, Towey noted the recent controversy regarding Catholic Ave Maria University.
The school is suing the federal government over its recent push to force certain religious employers to include contraceptives and abortion drugs in their health care plans, even if it goes against their beliefs.
Fatherhood Program Praised
But DuBois said the office is doing a lot of good.
"We have a wonderful fatherhood initiative where we're working to support local congregations that are helping dads get back on the right track after they may have fallen away from their families," he said.
Local pastors praised the program.
"It gives them the opportunity to seek jobs… to be able to provide for their families," James Jones, a pastor at Calvary Revival Church in Norfolk, said.
"This is a great opportunity where the church can come together with the father and make the individual become whole," he said.
Pastor Jerome Barber told CBN News a government grant enables him to host a monthly prayer breakfast for people in his community.
"I wanted them to know that I felt what they felt and in doing so we were able to pray for them and pray with them and then provide them with resources," Barber explained.
He said partnering with the government benefits everyone.
"What affects people, affects government," he said. What affects people, affects church."
"Why not partner together to bring about an environment that helps the people 'cause they're the same folks - same folks that vote, same folks that pray," he noted.
DuBois said working with the faith-based organizations is crucial to improving conditions in neighborhoods across the country.
"They're saying we're already toiling in this vineyard, we're already working, we're already helping folks so we're so glad you're throwing open the door to partnership," he told CBN News.
Leaders from the White House Office of Faith Based Initiatives hope to hold similar symposiums across the country.