Just as it confronts fallout with some religious communities over President Barack Obama's newly expressed support for same-sex marriage, the Obama re-election campaign is hiring a religious outreach director, an activist close to the campaign said Monday.
Michael Wear, who currently serves as executive assistant to the executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, will join the Obama campaign in Chicago as Faith Vote Director, according to James Salt, a Catholic activist who is close to the Obama campaign and White House.
A White House source confirmed Wear's departure on Monday but could not say whether he is joining the Obama campaign. The campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Monday. Wear's hiring was first reported Monday by the Religion News Service.
"Michael has served the president extremely well and he will be a great asset to the campaign," said Salt, the organizing director for Catholics United, a progressive group.
Sources close the White House say the timing was not dictated by the controversy over Obama's support for same-sex marriage. After Obama announced his support for legalized same-sex marriage, he hosted a conference call with 13 pastors on Wednesday to talk about his views.
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.
In the aftermath of the 2004 election, when George W. Bush won re-election with the help of many so-called values voters and when religion-related issues like same-sex marriage figured into race, Democrats began stepping up outreach to religious voters.
Last year, the Democratic National Committee hired a minister, the Rev. Derrick Harkins, to lead its faith outreach efforts.