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Melissa Rogers

Director, Center for Religion and Public Affairs, School of Divinity

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Expertise
  • Separation of Church and State
  • Religious Freedom
  • Religion and Politics
  • President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
Teaching
  • Church-State Relations
  • Christianity and Public Policy
Education
  • BA, Baylor University
  • JD, University of Pennsylvania

In 2009, President Obama appointed Melissa Rogers to serve as chair of his Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She also spearheaded the publication of a landmark 2010 joint statement on the role of religion in public life. The national spotlight has been so bright that she has even been called a member of President Barack Obama’s “spiritual cabinet,” but that’s a label she politely declines.

Rather than seeking the limelight, Rogers has focused instead on developing recommendations for the president on strengthening governmental partnerships with nonprofits to serve people in need. She has also worked with religious and secular leaders in drafting the most comprehensive joint statement to date of current law on issues dividing church and state. Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Christian leaders from the evangelical, mainline and Catholic traditions joined with civil liberties leaders to issue Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law, published by the Wake Forest School of Divinity.

Melissa Rogers says:

On Church and State

In drafting the joint statement on religious expression in public life, Rogers worked with faith-based groups as diverse as the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the Islamic Networks Group, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Former staff members of the ACLU and People for the American Way also served on the committee.

“Some of these groups are often on opposite sides of church-state litigation. But while the drafters of this document may disagree about how the legal line should be drawn between church and state, we have been able to come together and agree in many cases on what the law is today.”

On Religious Freedom and Being Labeled a Member of President Obama’s “Spiritual Cabinet”

“I’m not a personal spiritual advisor to President Obama, but I can say that the president appreciates religious freedom not only as a constitutional concept but also as something that enriches his own experience as a person of faith. President Obama knows that, for faith to be vital and have integrity, the government must respect both sides of the First Amendment’s religious liberty coin – the prohibition against governmental establishment of religion and the protections for the free exercise of faith.”