Biden-Harris administration commits to promoting partnerships with faith-based and neighborhood organizations to help people in need; announces Melissa Rogers as Executive Director and Josh Dickson as Deputy Director
Today, President Biden is signing an executive order reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which will promote partnerships with religious and secular organizations to better serve people in need. As our country grapples with a global pandemic, a severe economic downturn, the scourge of systemic racism, an escalating climate crisis and profound polarization, President Biden knows that civil society partnerships are essential to meeting such challenges.
Twenty years ago, President George W. Bush established the first White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. As President Bush said, government cannot be replaced by the efforts of religious and other community organizations, but government “can and should welcome [such organizations] as partners.” In 2009, the Obama-Biden administration continued this initiative, while also putting its own stamp on its name, practices, and policies. For example, this office helped prevent foreclosure amidst the housing crisis by sharing information with more than 50,000 faith-based and community stakeholders on mortgage refinancing and scam prevention; increase the number of summer meals served to kids for a total of more than 1.2 billion summer meals served; assist communities in responding to and recovering from disasters; and train diverse faith leaders on protecting their houses of worship.
At a time of great challenge and opportunity, the Biden-Harris administration is re-launching this bipartisan initiative. The Partnerships Office’s initial work will include collaborating with civil society to: address the COVID-19 pandemic and boost economic recovery; combat systemic racism; increase opportunity and mobility for historically disadvantaged communities; and strengthen pluralism. The office will also support agency partnerships that advance the United States Government’s diplomatic, international development, and humanitarian work around the world. All of this work will be done in ways that respect cherished constitutional guarantees.
Leading the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will be Melissa Rogers, who will serve as the office’s Executive Director and as Senior Director for Faith and Public Policy in the White House Domestic Policy Council. Melissa has been a leader on these issues for decades, including serving from 2013-2017 as Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the Obama-Biden Administration.
Josh Dickson, White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement, will serve as the office’s Deputy Director. He will be a key interlocutor with faith communities and other stakeholders. Josh previously served as National Faith Engagement Director for Biden for President, and was Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Commerce during the Obama-Biden Administration. Trey Baker, who previously served as the National Director of African American Engagement for Biden for President and is currently a White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement, will serve as the office’s liaison to Black communities, including Black faith communities. The Partnerships Office will work hand in hand with the wider White House Office of Public Engagement’s constituency outreach initiatives to engage and partner with stakeholders of all backgrounds and beliefs in its efforts to serve individuals and communities in need. The team will also work with closely with staff in agency Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to execute the objectives outlined in today’s executive order.
“There are not Democrats or Republicans dying from this pandemic, or losing their jobs, going hungry and facing eviction in this economic crisis, or facing the sting of systemic racism or the brunt of the climate crisis,” said President Biden. “They are fellow human beings. They are fellow Americans. And this is not a nation that can, or will, simply stand by and watch the suffering around us. That is not who we are. That is not what faith calls us to be. That is why I’m reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to work with leaders of different faiths and backgrounds who are the frontlines of their communities in crisis and who can help us heal, unite, and rebuild. We still have many difficult nights to endure. But we will get through them together and with faith guiding us through the darkness and into the light.”
The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will be an essential part of the Biden-Harris administration’s plan to bring people of all backgrounds and beliefs together to meet our challenges, perfect our union, and restore the soul of our country. Specifically, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will work with civil society partners to:
Address the Covid-19 Pandemic and Boost Economic Recovery
By working with diverse civil society organizations, the Partnerships Office will help more Americans get facts about COVID-19 and vaccinations, and support economic recovery efforts. Faith and community leaders are frequently anchors of their neighborhoods due to the services they provide and the trust and respect they command, enabling them to effectively reach the most vulnerable.
Combat Systemic Racism
The Partnerships Office will work closely with organizations and community leaders to tackle systemic racism and other forms of bias. Whether it is health, education, economic opportunity, housing, or the criminal justice system, racial and other disparities abound, and it will take an all-hands-on-deck effort to fix these problems. The Partnerships Office is committed to making equity a top priority and working with stakeholders from all beliefs and backgrounds in pursuit of a more just and equitable society.
Increase Opportunity and Mobility for Historically Disadvantaged Communities
The Biden-Harris administration has made a firm commitment to serving vulnerable communities and people in need, and the Partnerships Office will play an important role in this work. From supporting immigrants and welcoming refugees to addressing childhood hunger to helping minority-owned and rural small businesses grow and thrive, the Partnerships Office will focus much of its programmatic efforts on these key administration priorities.
Advance International Development and Global Humanitarian Work
U.S. agencies’ partnerships will also serve people around the world. Whether it is promoting child and maternal health or defusing conflicts, these partnerships are vital for the success and effectiveness of the United States’ diplomatic, international development, and global humanitarian work.
Strengthen Pluralism and Respect Constitutional Guarantees
A key commitment of the Partnerships Office is embracing pluralism. At its best, the United States is not only a country with remarkable peace across our religious differences, it is a nation where people of diverse faiths and beliefs regularly make common cause. When Methodists and Muslims, Buddhists and Baptists, Sikhs and Secular Humanists serve together, we strengthen one another and we strengthen America. As part of this commitment, the Partnerships Office will work to protect the right to practice faith without fear, implementing promises President-elect Biden made about safeguarding faith communities that are at risk of discrimination, harassment, and hate-based acts of violence and vandalism.
Fundamental to these goals is respecting our cherished guarantees of church-state separation and freedom for people of all faiths and none, as the executive order notes. The Partnerships Office, for example, will not prefer one faith over another or favor religious over secular organizations. Instead, it will work with every willing partner to promote the common good, including those who have differences with the Administration. As President Biden has repeatedly said, he will be president for all Americans. In addition to advancing collaborative efforts to serve people in need, the White House Partnerships Office will develop and coordinate the Administration’s policy agenda regarding faith-based and other community organizations.