White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

White House Council Calls for Action on Modern-day Slavery

RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

White House advisory council of religious leaders. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

 WASHINGTON — A White House advisory council of religious leaders called for a global fund to address human trafficking and urged a new labeling system to help identify consumer goods that were not created with slave labor.

With a 36-page report released Wednesday, the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships hopes to build awareness of the estimated 21 million people worldwide who are subjected to sexual exploitation or forced labor.

“Abraham Lincoln said if slavery is not wrong then nothing is wrong, and we know that sadly 150 years later slavery still exists,” said Susan K. Stern, chair of the council and an adviser to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. “Today with this report we say, ‘Enough.’”

The 15-member council made 10 recommendations to the White House, saying what they’ve learned about the scope of trafficking has driven them to galvanize national action.

One recommendation calls for a “Global Fund to Eradicate Modern-day Slavery,” modeled on a fund that combated AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Melissa Rogers New Head of White House Faith-Based Office

Melissa Rogers, new director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Photo courtesy RNS.

Church-state expert Melissa Rogers will be the new director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

“I’m honored to be able to serve President Obama by forging and promoting a wide range of effective partnerships with faith-based and secular nonprofits that help people in need,” Rogers said in a statement on Wednesday. Rogers succeeds Joshua DuBois, who left the office in February after serving throughout President Obama’s first term.

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.

'Good Choice, Mr. President:' Jim Wallis on New Faith-Based Office Director

The White House announced today the appointment of Melissa Rogers as new director of its Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In a statement, former director Joshua DuBois called Rogers a "leader on religion and public life" and a "stalwart advocate for religious freedom." He added:

Melissa is also a committed Christian and lifelong Baptist.  She is active in her local church – I know that Melissa has taught youth Bible study, she and her family volunteer with the church food pantry, and she takes care of infants in the church nursery – and she truly cherishes the role of people of all faiths and belief in American public life.

Sojourners president and CEO Jim Wallis released the following statement: 

I’m privileged to know Melissa Rogers as both a valued colleague and a friend. Over the course of her career she has distinguished herself by her ability to thoughtfully and knowledgeably bring her faith and her understanding of the law to bear on important questions of public policy. Her genuine spirit and concern for others has earned her the trust of people on different sides of issues. Her deep competence on legal and policy matters will be very helpful in her new role. She will serve both the White House, the country, and the faith community well in this new position. I can't think of anyone who would have been a better choice for this key job at this critical time. Melissa is widely respected and trusted in the faith community, and many of us will support and assist her in any ways we can. Good choice, Mr. President!