September 30, 2003

Pew Forum Executive Director Announces Resignation

Rogers Accepts Position as Visiting Professor at Wake Forest Divinity School

After three years at the helm of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Melissa Rogers has decided to step down from that position next month. Rogers has accepted a position as Visiting Professor of Religion and Public Policy at the Wake Forest University Divinity School. She will commute to North Carolina to teach classes but will remain based in Washington. Rogers also is co-authoring a church-state law textbook for undergraduates that will be published by Baylor University Press. She plans to take on some other religious liberty projects as well.

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“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to launch and develop this new organization,” Rogers said. “I want to thank The Pew Charitable Trusts and everyone who has participated in Forum events and activities. I also am indebted to the Forum’s co-chairs, E.J. Dionne, Jr., and Jean Bethke Elshtain, who have been outstanding partners in this endeavor. It has been a joy and a wonderful learning experience to work with them. I also have had the privilege of working with a first-class staff who have poured their hearts and souls into the project.

“It’s been a great three years,” Rogers said, “but I look forward to having the time to research and write again on religious liberty issues and to be part of the debate on these important topics.”

The Pew Charitable Trusts have indicated their continued commitment to supporting the work of the Forum by renewing its grant. The Forum is co-chaired by E.J. Dionne, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and by Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago.

“Melissa Rogers has been an exceptional leader because she combines her deep commitment to religious liberty with an exceptional understanding of the pluralism of America’s religious life,” said Dionne. “She has made the Forum a place where members of all religious groups — and people of diverse political views — know their voices will be heard and taken seriously. The Forum could not have succeeded without her.”

“Under Melissa’s excellent leadership, the Forum has made itself essential to our national dialogue,” Elshtain said. “For understandable reasons, many fear moments when religion and politics come together. The Forum has shown that the intersection of faith and politics is a space where good things can happen and where the most important questions in our public life can be debated with charity, civility and seriousness.”

“Whether it was suggesting that our rapid response events cover U.S. Supreme Court decisions, her idea for anniversary events on the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives or the notion of a rapidly produced joint statement by a diverse group of constitutional scholars on the school voucher case, Melissa’s insight, ingenuity and sheer ability to get things done contributed immeasurably to transforming an idea on paper to a well functioning organization that speaks to breaking issues in an innovative, fair and thoughtful way,” said Luis Lugo, director of the religion program at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

“There could be no better co-chairs for the project than E.J. Dionne and Jean Bethke Elshtain, who brought the Forum to life. I am pleased that they will be staying on. Their keen insight regarding religion and public affairs, their tireless work, sense of fair play and deep dedication to this project have been critical to its success,” Lugo said.

The Pew Forum seeks to promote a deeper understanding of the influence of religion on the ideas and institutions of society in the U.S. and beyond. It is supported by The Trusts through a grant to Georgetown University.