New Director of Faith Based Office

Hemant is reporting that Melissa Rogers has been appointed as the new director for the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. This is apparently popular among secularist groups since Rogers has a history of being pro-separation.

I also see that she’s an academic director at Wake Forest, so I went looking for papers that might and give us a hint of what to expect. The first thing I came across was in the journal for the Canadian International Council from 2004. As it happens, she mentions Bush’s “faith-based initiative” and notes that it allows the government to directly fund houses of worship. She then suggests that this is a threat to religious freedom:

I am troubled by claims that our constitutional prohibition on government promotion of religion reflects hostility to religion. These claims are often transparent attempts to de-legitimate some church-state rules in order to privilege some faiths over others and use the machinery of government to pressure people to embrace religion. But these traditional church-state rules have produced robust religious freedom in our country and an incredibly vital religious landscape. If the prohibition on government-endorsed religion were abandoned, government could endorse Christianity and thereby sacrifice precious rights of conscience, corrupt religion, create bitter divisions, and weaken our country as a whole.

Religious freedom also is threatened when we normalize government funding for and close regulation of the activities of houses of worship. Let me be clear: it is quite appropriate for the government to regulate what it funds. It is especially important for the government to ensure that direct public aid is not used for religious activities. Under our system, these are duties the government owes the taxpayer. These duties suggest, however, that the government should not direct funds to houses of worship. I believe that religion in the United States is vital in large part because it is independent from government, and that religious freedom is strong in part because citizens have a high degree of confidence that their taxes won’t be used to subsidize religion. In other words, American religion traditionally has been largely self-supporting and self-regulating, and I believe it should stay that way.[International Journal, Vol. 59, No. 4 (Autumn, 2004), pp. 905-906]

I’m extremely happy with that. Of course, the questions now becomes what exactly what she’s going to do with her overpowered office.