Will a Biden-Harris Administration Deliver On Its Interfaith Promises?
November 16, 2020
RNS — The incoming Biden-Harris administration has already demonstrated its deep commitment to positively engaging religious diversity during their campaign. Their Faith Outreach, helmed by Josh Dickson, invited diverse groups from evangelicals to humanists, Catholics to Latter-Day Saints, Sikhs to Jews, and a dozen additional groups. No faith was excluded, and no one group dominated.
As candidates, both Biden and Harris spoke eloquently about the importance of their own faith commitments on the campaign trail, and in their acceptance speeches.
Religious diversity is just as essential to governing as it is to campaigns. Now that Biden and Harris have demonstrated their strength with religious voters, they have the opportunity to leverage the social capital of America’s diverse religious communities to benefit the common good.
Indeed, advancing an explicitly interfaith approach is the most potent way to activate the power of these communities. Moreover, given our religious diversity, interfaith approaches utilize a distinctively American set of strengths.
Our organization, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), describes religious pluralism as having three parts, all of which allow space for distinctive and often diverging commitments while building together towards a stronger civic whole: 1) affirming respect for individual religious and ethical identities, 2) building mutually inspiring relationships across lines of difference, and 3) acting on shared values for the common good. The White House has a unique convening power to uplift and advances each of these essential elements of religious pluralism.
Affirm respect for religious and ethical identities
The Biden-Harris campaign demonstrated their commitment to this priority through the actions of their campaign. In office, the administration can take additional steps, such as:
Build relationships across our deepest divides
If we have learned one thing from this election cycle, it is that America’s divides are as profound as ever. Present-elect Biden has articulated his commitment to healing the soul of our nation, healing which can be supported by the resources of our various religious traditions. The Biden-Harris administration can:
Create opportunities to act for the common good
All religious and ethical traditions carry strong values around service and acting together for the common good. The Biden-Harris administration can use its platform to create meaningful opportunities for Americans of all backgrounds to respond to a larger civic call based on shared values.
President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Harris are testaments to the power of religious communities, given how clearly they are shaped by their religious values. Leveraging the religious and ethical values of millions of Americans – both to build religious pluralism, and to solve social problems – could be a lasting legacy of their administration.
Eboo Patel is the founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, Paul Raushenbush is its senior advisor for public affairs and innovation, and Mary Ellen Giess is its vice president of strategic initiatives.