Melissa Rogers promises continuity in faith-based office

The new leader of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships told reporters Friday morning that she aims to continue her predecessor's work.

"We'll certainly consider additional initiatives, but we are focusing right now on continuing the programs we have in place," Melissa Rogers said on a conference call organized by the White House.

Rogers, a Baptist religious scholar, is taking over from Joshua DuBois, who stepped down from the post in February.

In particular, human trafficking will be a focus, Rogers said. President Obama said in September that the issue would become a major focus of the office.

Rogers previously chaired the first White House advisory council, tasked with working out clearer rules for religious groups that receive federal grants. She has said that when it comes to programs receiving federal funds, religious organizations should not be able to make hiring decisions based on religion. Some religious and secular groups have pressured President Obama to undo a Bush executive order that allowed such preferential hiring. Asked about that contentious issue Friday, Rogers said that it "remains under review" by the Obama administration and that in her new role she will "carry out President Obama's views on this and all other issues."

Asked about the White House's relationship with Catholics in light of disagreement over the Health and Human Services contraception mandate, Rogers said she would draw on her own relationships.

In addition to her work with the Catholic Conference of U.S. Bishops and other Catholic groups, Rogers noted that she has "scores of close friends that are in fact Catholic" and has been in touch with them since taking the job. "I want to work with them to promote the common good and address issues in the most positive and constructive way possible," she said.

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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Rachel Weiner | March 22, 2013