Praise for Melissa Rogers as choice to head White House faith-based office

Praise for Melissa Rogers as choice to head White House faith-based office March 19, 2013

This got a bit lost last week amid the other big religious news, but I’m enormously pleased that “Church-state expert Melissa Rogers will be the new director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.”

This is a Good Thing. As Adelle Banks reports for RNS:

Rogers is already well-acquainted with the office she will direct. She chaired the office’s first advisory council and spearheaded its work to reform the office. In 2010, President Obama signed an executive order reflecting recommendations from the council that called for greater transparency and clearer rules for religious groups that receive federal grants.

In other words, when the office ran into trouble negotiating all the church-state issues its existence creates, they turned to an expert for advice. And now they’ve put her in charge.

Rogers comes to the post after serving in several positions at the intersection of religion and public policy. Most recently she has directed Wake Forest Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs and been a nonresident senior fellow at Washington’s Brookings Institution.

She previously was executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a board member of Public Religion Research Institute and the general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs.

J. Brent Walker, director of the Baptist Joint Committee, called her a “perfect choice’’ for the position.

The BJC is kind of the Baptist ACLU, focused mainly on the core Baptist belief of the separation of church and state. It’s a “joint committee” in that the agency is supported by a host of different Baptist groups (we Baptists don’t technically have “denominations” — or, at least, we didn’t used to). After the fundie takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, the SBC withdrew its support for the BJC, but a bunch of Southern Baptist state conventions still support that work.

I provide that background just so you don’t see that word “Baptist” and mistake it for a religious right group. The BJC is Baptist in the Roger Williams sense, not in the Al Mohler sense. And Melissa Rogers is a Baptist in the Roger Williams sense too.

Sarah Posner has a round-up of some of the praise for Rogers. Maggie Garrett of Americans United for Separation of Church and State hails Rogers as “extremely well-versed in the constitutional issues surrounding the Faith-Based Initiative.”

Dena Sher of the ACLU says:

Melissa has worked for years to protect religious liberty and uphold the Constitution. She will be strongly committed to the Office’s goal of ensuring that government partnerships with religious organizations uphold our laws and our values.

Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance chimes in:

I know of no individual better suited to oversee this important endeavor, with sensitivity to the competing views and priorities at play, and with great integrity, than Melissa Rogers.

Mark Silk calls Rogers “a shot in the arm” for the office:

It would be hard to imagine a better choice to head the White Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships than Melissa Rogers. Since her days as general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee, Rogers has been one of Washington’s leading players in the church-state arena — a traditional Baptist separationist with a talent for forging consensus.

He cites, and links to, a 2010 column in which Rogers gives a “mixed verdict” on the office’s record on church-state separation. That piece gives a good overview of Rogers’ Baptist/separationist perspective — and illustrates why I’m also very pleased with this choice.

John Fea, author of Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?, gives his thumbs up.

Hemant Mehta rounds up additional positive reactions from Americans United, the American Humanist Association, and other groups.

Vorjack digs into some of Rogers’ academic writing, and is pleased with what it shows.

The Anti-Defamation League says Rogers “has been a great and articulate champion for religious liberty” and that “The President has chosen wisely and well.”

The Rev. Joel Hunter and Rabbi David Saperstein team up to say:

Without robust religious liberty, democracy is weakened; that society is better off and the needs of the weak and the vulnerable can best be addressed when government and religion can partner effectively and within constitutional constraints; that America with its magnificent tapestry of religious identities and expression is one of the glories of America.

And we agree that no one with whom we have worked over our decades of public service to the religious community is more committed to this vision and more skilled at implementing it than Melissa Rogers.


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  • Good call, and good job clarifying that the BJC is nothing like the religious right.

  • Carstonio

    While Rogers is a good choice, I thought the Faith-Based Initiatives office existed only because GWB wanted a pork project for his cronies in the religious right. During those years the office was accused of favoring those charities at the expense of even other Christian ones. I don’t have an issue with religious charities receiving federal money as long as there’s no sectarian favoritism in the selection process. But I do have an issue with the office deliberately excluding secular charities.

  • Bad enough misquote that you probably ought to correct it:

    It would be hard to imagine a better choice to head the White Office of
    Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships than Melissa Rogers. [em. added]

    That’s the White House Office, of course, not a whites-only office.

  • Oh man. Doesn’t that sound like the basis of a dystopian story about the US and what could have been.

    *Poke, poke, typity* …

    Fuck, that was awful. ._. You know, no, on second thought, I’m ROT13ing this with a TW– FUCKING DEPRESSING.

    Cerfvqrag Bonzn fvturq. Ur jnf gverq, obar-gverq, naq jbea guva jvgu gur fgenva bs chfuvat guebhtu fyrrcyrff avtugf naq wblyrff qnlf. Fbzrqnl vg jbhyq or orggre. Ur xrcg gryyvat uvf puvyqera gung naq ur ubcrq ur zvtug rira or evtug, ohg gur ybbx va gurve rlrf jnf fbzrgvzrf gbb terng n oheqra gb fubhyqre. Ur pbhyqa’g tvir va gb sngvthr abj, ohg vg jbhyq gnxr vgf gbyy riraghnyyl, jura ur yrg vg. Gura vg jbhyq nyy pbyyncfr vajneq vagb bar terng fvathynevgl bs pehfuvat rkunhfgvba. Znlor ur jbhyq gnxr n erny inpngvba gura, hayvxr gur fubeg erprffrf sebz gur jbexcynpr–ohg abg gur jbex–ur gbbx abj. Ur pbhyqa’g nyybj uvzfrys gb erfg abj, abg jura fb znal rlrf jrer hcba uvz, jnvgvat sbe uvz gb snvy fb gung gurve bjaref pbhyq cbvag naq wrre ng uvf ragver enpr sbe gurve punzcvba’f jrnxarff naq ynpx bs qevir.

    Cerfvqrag Bonzn fvturq ntnva. Vg jnf gvzr gb trg onpx gb vg. Objvat uvf urnq, ur ragrerq gur Biny Bssvpr guebhtu gur ‘Pbyberq Crefbaf’ ragenapr.

  • Victor Savard

    (((President Obama signed an executive order reflecting recommendations from the council that called for greater transparency and clearer rules for religious groups that receive federal grants.)))

    About time, such a bill was presented cause such a bill should get a LOT of those religious left and right in line and between YA, “ME”, “ME” and “ME” truth be known their true god is really “The Almighty Dollar” and…….

    End YA say sinner vic!

    Forget “IT” Victor cause we own your ass! You missed Mass on Sunday which was Saint Patrick Day and you still have not gone to confession. Come on Victor do you think that all of US, I mean U>S gods are going to put UP with Canadian Cells who think they can take the slive her, I mean sliver out of our eyes while they’ve got an entire forest in their own. Long story short Victor, this is the year of the snake in the grass and you’ve got “IT” coming to YA and besides not every body cells love Country music NOW!


    Stop yelling Victor! Face “IT” some wo men just don’t like Country music!

    Go Figure NOW! :)


  • zzxjoanw

    And Discus doesn’t play nice with my rot13 bookmarklet :(

  • I use, copy-pasta seems to carry most of the format properly.

  • J-

    Will USAID continue to give money to organizations that refuse to hire non-Christians?
    Like, say, World Vision?
    Yes, absolutely it will.
    So fuck it. Fuck this office. Fuck this woman. Fuck Christianity. Fuck all religion. Fuck all religious or spiritual or agnostic people. We will only be free once religion is DEAD.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Discrimination on basis of religion against non-Christians: bad.

    Discrimination on basis of religion against non-atheists: STILL BAD.

  • J

    We will only be free once religion is DEAD.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Repeating a thing that is false doesn’t magically make it a thing that is true.

  • J

    We will only be free once religion and religious people are dead.

  • Obvious troll is obvious. And pathetic.

  • J

    Once religion is dead and religious people are no more, we secular people will be free to live our lives in peace and freedom, pursuing knowledge, pleasure and advancement without interference or the threat of war, imprisonment, ignorant meddling or boring god-talk.

  • Isabel C.

    Flagged for, you know, implicit death threats.

    Nice to see you’ve become the atheist Markuze, J. Always knew you had it in ya.

  • Lori

    Idiot. Stop making the rest of us look bad.

  • Lori

    Yeah, I can’t get excited about the appointment of a person, whoever good, to head an office that really shouldn’t exist.

  • J

    Fine: Stop hiding and apologizing and praising religion and calling it ‘part of the complexity of the human psyche’.

  • Speaking as someone who went through a phase exactly like yours wherein I cursed Christianity with every breath: individual people need your vitriol, not Christianity in general, much less “all religion.” This kind of religious-phobic hate doesn’t help anyone, yourself least of all. It’s like having a fever, burning you up from the inside as it searches for fuel, external or internal. This kind of hate doesn’t discriminate. If you let it, it will consume the parts of you that make you a worthwhile person, leaving you a bitter shell.

    Wake up and look around. You’re not in a community of people blindly praising religion. Fred is extremely critical toward members of his own faith and regularly dissects the beliefs they present. Many (if not most) of the people here have other faiths or no religion at all. There’s a reason we find this place enjoyable and it has nothing to do with “hiding and apologizing and praising religion.” It’s because most of the people here are genuinely good, empathic and enjoyable to be around.

    That won me over, and I was in the process of melting down. If you had access to the right places at the right time, you would have seen my writing practically frothing with rage over every third line in the Bible. I remember posting a rant that was almost entirely at caps, trying in one breath to declare that God was imaginary and to hold it to crimes which were also a work of fiction. Make no mistake, I still find the entire concept of Hell to be beyond revolting, unspeakably so when it’s used as a threat to innocent people, and I think only a human mind could justify the concept of eternal torture as a means of punishing somebody for, say, eating a piece of beef jerky on a Friday.

    I still think it’s utterly irrelevant whether God or Jesus exist. I’ve believed, I’ve rejected and I’ve disbelieved, and at no time did I feel any direct consequence of doing so. It’s functionally all the same to me. What matters is what people do with their beliefs (whether for/against/neither), and the people here have incorporated them into intellect and warmth and generosity.

    I hope you figure out how to do this too, before it does you harm.

  • JustoneK

    So rly, you want freedom for who you perceive as _your_ people and no one else matters. Rather makes you an asshole.

  • Lori

    Who are you talking to, idiot? In what way am I doing any of those things? When did I ever call religion part of the complexity of the human psyche’?

    You clearly have far, far more anger than intelligence, but you do realize that when you use quotation marks you are implying that you’re quoting, yes?

  • Thanks for the reminder that there’s something concrete I can do, even if it’s not guaranteed effective. It’s at least somewhat more satisfying to click the “Flag as inappropriate” link than it is to simply sit here in disbelief and sadness in front of someone’s statement that he actually wants me dead.

  • Isabel C.

    Glad I can help, because–yeah, I was feeling sort of helplessly rageface until I realized that belatedly. It’s one of the few advantages Disqus has over Typepad, to my view.
    Like, I can deal with “ugh, fuck off and die”/”jump in a lake”/whatever, because they’re clearly Internet Rhetoric and not serious. But “the world will be better when this entire giant class of people, most of whom have never done or advocated harm to anyone else, is dead” is creepy and not okay.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Hey, I can tell this is Izzy! It says ‘An unregistered user’ at the top, fuck Disqus, but at the bottom it says “Isabel C.’s comment is in reply to *Nicole
    J. LeBoeuf-Little*:” so I can ID the poster! I bet Disqus didn’t mean to do that, and of course it’s not as good as just putting ‘Isabel C.’ at the top of the comment where it belongs, but I’ll take it.

  • Don’t worry, Disqus has a way to fuck with that, too. Earlier today, I got an e-mail notification telling me one person had replied, but the reply had a completely different name on the blog itself. I checked later and it had changed to what was in the e-mail. So now apparently some usernames are in flux, too.

    Disqus can’t possibly fuck up worse than it has already. I say this knowing it probably will. I’m kind of hoping to goad into a complete server meltdown so they have to restore from an earlier backup and revert all the changes.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Well hell.

  • Ani J. Sharmin

    I have to agree with Carstonio and Lori on this. I don’t think there should be an office specifically to give money to religious groups, even if they are charities. I’d be very much in favor of giving money to charities in general, so long as they don’t discriminate. What adds to my annoyance is that while this Faith Based Initiatives office exists, we see more and more attempts to defund secular organizations that do anything (usually having to do with abortion or contraception) that the religious right disagrees with.