The White House announced this week (March 13) that a new Director had been appointed to the White House Office of Faith-Based Partnerships (WHOFBP).
The new Director is Melissa Rogers, formerly the director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School and a nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Institution. She most recently served as general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, a church-state separationist group, and served as one of the members President Obama appointed to the WHOFBP's Advisory Council in 2009. In that role, she was one of the very few on the Council who did not represent a beneficiary of WHOFBP funds.
Rogers also served as executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and was appointed to the State Department's Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group in 2011. She is a familiar face on Capitol Hill, testifying before members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees on religious freedom issues.
She succeeds Joshua DuBois, who has led faith-based efforts under President Barack Obama since the president's first term. DuBois was a Pentecostal minister and a Senate aide to Obama prior to Obama's election to the White Hose. DuBois was a controversial choice in part due to his age (26 at the time) as well as his divinity credentials, and angered many church-state separationist groups by leaving almost all of the Constitutionally questionable aspects of the WHOFBP established by prior President George W. Bush in place.
Separationists are much more optimistic in regards to Rogers. The Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, a liberal faith-based group that has been a major critic of the WHOFBP, praised Rogers' appointment on Wednesday: "Much work is yet to be done on the proper relationship between federal money and sectarian organizations, including resolving whether these organizations can continue to accept taxpayer dollars while discriminating in hiring based on religion -- which I do not believe they should be allowed to do.
"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."