Melissa Rogers

Visiting Professor

Rogers is a nationally known expert on religion in American public life. Her areas of expertise include the First Amendment’s religion clauses and the interplay of religion, law, policy, and politics. Rogers previously served as Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (2013-2017), Chair of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (2009-2010), Director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at the School of Divinity (2003 – 2013), Executive Director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (2000 – 2003), and Associate Counsel/General Counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (1994 – 2000).  

Rogers is author of Faith in American Public Life (2019) and co-author of Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court (2008).  In 2014, Rogers gave the baccalaureate address at Wake Forest University and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Divinity.  In 2017, President Barack Obama appointed Rogers to serve as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.  Baylor University awarded her its Pro Texana Medal of Service and the First Freedom Center gave Rogers its Virginia First Freedom Award.  She has been recognized by National Journal as one of the church-state experts “politicians will call on when they get serious about addressing an important public policy issue.”

White House commissioned officer portrait of Melissa Rogers at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, Nov. 6, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) This photograph is provided by THE WHITE HOUSE as a courtesy and may be printed by the subject(s) in the photograph for personal use only. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not otherwise be reproduced, disseminated or broadcast, without the written permission of the White House Photo Office. This photograph may not be used in any commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.


BA, Baylor University; JD, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Religious Affiliation


Courses Taught

  • Religion in American Public Life: Legal and Theological Perspectives

Select Books and Articles

  • Faith in American Public Life (Baylor University Press, 2019)
  • Religious Freedom and the Federal Executive Branch: Suggestions for Future Administrations, 15 U. St. Thomas L.J. 703 (2019)
  • With William Galston, Health Care Providers’ Consciences and Patients’ Needs: The Quest for Balance (Brookings Institution, 2012)
  • Religious Expression in American Public Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law (Wake Forest University Center for Religion and Public Affairs, 2010)
  • With Ron Flowers and Steven Green, Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court (Baylor University Press, 2008)
  • With E.J. Dionne, Serving People in Need, Safeguarding Religious Freedom (Brookings Institution, 2008)

Select Academic Lectures and Presentations

  • Religious Freedom and the United States Supreme Court, Wake Washington (November 7, 2019)
  • Annual Conference on Citizenship, National Conference on Citizenship (October 30, 2019)
  • Religion and Polarized Politics, Danforth Center on Religion and Politics (February 2019)
  • Trading Kennedy for Kavanaugh: What’s at Stake for Religious Freedom? Yale Divinity School Ensign Lecture (October 2018)
  • How Can Christians Help Bridge the Partisan Divide? New York Avenue Presbyterian Church (November 2018)
  • Religion in the National Discourse, Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute (October 2018)

Select Honors and Awards

  • Judson-Rice Award, Baptists Today (2018)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Divinity, John Leland Center for Theological Studies (2018)
  • Pro Texana Medal of Service, Baylor University (2016)
  • President’s Service Award, Progressive National Baptist Convention (2014)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Divinity, Wake Forest University (2014)
  • International Religious Liberty Association, Liberty Magazine and North American Religious Liberty Association Honoree (2014)
  • J.M. Dawson Religious Liberty Award, Baptist Joint Committee (2014)
  • Virginia First Freedom Award, First Freedom Center (2010)
  • Abner V. McCall Religious Liberty Award, Baylor University Alumni Association (2009)

Bar Admissions

  • United States Supreme Court, Maryland, and the District of Columbia

Advisory Boards

  • Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, Advisory Board (2018-present)
  • National Museum of American Religion, Advisory Board (2018-present)
  • My Neighbor’s Keeper, Advisory Board (2018-present)
  • America Indivisible, Advisory Board (2019 to present)



Media Requests

The Office of Communications is responsible for communicating information regarding faculty research, programs, and other news to appropriate media sources. Faculty are available to provide comment for a story or be interviewed (recorded and/or live).  To request, contact Cheryl Walker, director of news and communications for Wake Forest University.