President Joe Biden signed on February 14, 2021 an executive order reestablishing the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to help address the challenges facing the country.
Originally created under the Bush administration and revamped during the Obama years, the office will promote partnerships with religious and secular organizations with the goal of serving Americans in need. President Biden believes that these organizations can serve a critical role in helping solve some of the nation’s issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic, economic crisis, systemic racism, and climate change.
Melissa Rogers will head the office as Executive Director and as Senior Director for Faith and Public Policy. She previously led the office from 2013 to 2017 and has decades of experience in dealing with the country’s problems. Teaming up with her are Josh Dickson, White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement, who will serve as the office’s Deputy Director, and Trey Baker, White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement, will serve as the office’s liaison to Black communities, including Black faith communities.
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. —US President Joe Biden
Biden said the relaunching of the office is necessary so the government can work with community leaders who know the challenges at ground level.
“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 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.”
He added that he hopes “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.”
The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships will focus on these five areas:
- Address the COVID-19 pandemic and boosting economic recovery
- Combat systemic racism
- Increase opportunity and mobility for historically disadvantaged communities
- Advance international development and global humanitarian work
- Strengthen pluralism and respect constitutional guarantees
The announcement came about a month after 50 faith organizations signed an open letter urging the Biden-Harris administration to relaunch the office. The signatories of the letter are members of the Washington Inter-Religious Staff Community, including NETWORK, Jubilee USA Network, Church World Service, Pax Christi USA, National Advocacy Center of Sisters of the Good Shepard, Leadership Conference of Women Religious and others across multiple faiths, according to National Catholic Reporter.
“A fully functioning faith-based office (whatever the name) with appropriate funding is critically important to facilitate fruitful partnerships with faith and civil society organizations, and to ensure that members of your Administration have substantial and timely communication with the faith community,” they wrote.
Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA executive director, lauded the move since it shows that the opinion of faith organizations matters to the Biden administration. In an interview with Crux, he said, “Many of these issues about the economy, about foreign policy, about jobs, about poor and vulnerable people, are actually expertise housed within faith-based institutions and groups.”