Baylor alumna’s book, ‘Faith in American Public Life,’ offers both hope and challenges
Baylor alumna Melissa Rogers (BA ’88) has spent her entire professional life at the intersection of religion and public life.
After earning Phi Beta Kappa honors and her bachelor’s in history at Baylor, Rogers completed a law degree at Penn. Since then, she has worked for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and Wake Forest’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs. Perhaps most notably, Rogers was the executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2013-17 under President Barack Obama.
Now, Rogers is sharing what she’s learned in a new book. Faith in American Public Life, published by Baylor University Press, explores the role of religion in the public square and the principles that define the relationship between government and religion. Rogers walks readers through the ways our nation has established a legal framework that has produced remarkable freedom and allowed religion to be a powerful force for good.
“The Constitution permits governmental and willing religious leaders to work together to promote the common good,” Rogers writes. “Common sense requires it. To conquer scourges like the Ebola and Zika viruses, end global poverty, promote racial justice, advance maternal and child health, counter violent extremism, make peace around the world and slow the climate change that threatens especially the poorest among us, government should collaborate with civil society organizations, including interested religious organizations. Such collaboration ought to be prioritized and always conducted in a manner consistent with the Constitution.”
That Baylor University Press would publish Rogers’ book seems a natural fit, given her long connection to BU. She followed her grandfather, parents and many other relatives to Baylor, where she was a member of Chi Omega, Mortar Board, and the Freshman Leadership Organization. Rogers received the Pro Texana Medal of Service from Baylor in 2016.
It was at Baylor, she says, that she learned from professors that “kindness and service to others are as important as intellectual achievements. Some of my best experiences at Baylor were my interactions with brilliant and caring professors, such as Dr. Rufus Spain, who took the time to get to know me and encourage me.”
Today, Rogers is a visiting professor at Wake Forest’s School of Divinity. She and her book have been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, CSPAN’s BookTV, and excerpts have been shared by Religion News Service, Outreach Magazine and EthicsDaily.
Sic ’em, Melissa Rogers!