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Jeanné Lewis named permanent CEO of Faith in Public Life

The progressive Black Catholic organizer and former politician has held the interim tag since June 2022, when she stepped down from the FIPL board.

(Jeanné Lewis for At-Large DC/Facebook)

Jeanné Lewis, a Black Catholic organizer and former politician, has been named the new CEO of Faith in Public Life (FIPL), a nonprofit advocacy group spun off in 2008 from the Center for American Progress.

FIPL announced the news in late August, alongside plans to bolster their operations with a “coalition of highly influential faith leaders” who will push for racial and religious diversity in American democracy. Lewis has been tasked with carrying out the new plan, following more than a year of service as interim CEO. It was also announced that FIPL’s founder, Rev. Jennifer S. Butler, will depart from the organization.

“Over the last several decades, faith leaders have often been used as a token for justifying political aims. There is a gap in our current democratic infrastructure, and we recognize that faith leaders, working across religions and grounded in love, have important wisdom to offer around building inclusive, respectful and equitable communities,” said Lewis in a statement.

“To fill this gap, we are building a coalition of influential faith leaders from a variety of faith traditions to serve as a strategy hub for fostering communities of belonging and creating the multifaith and multiracial democracy we desire.”

Faith in Public Life Announces Plans to Build a National Coalition of Influential Faith Leaders to Achieve New Vision - Faith in Public Life
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, August 30, 2023 MEDIA CONTACT Lizzy Ganssle,, 203-623-2271 Faith in Public Life Announces Plans to Build a National Coalition of Influential Faith Leaders to Achieve New Vision Washington, D.C. – Faith in Public Life has launched a new…

The new move for FIPL comes after 15 years of interfaith advocacy, with the organization calling for change in various aspects of religion and government, usually with a focus on Christianity. The organization has questioned political candidates on their commitment to social justice issues, rallied for legislation such as the Affordable Care Act, and protested against harmful policies from conservative politicians.

In recent years, the organization has also set its sights on the Catholic Church, organizing petitions against Archbishops José H. Gómez of Los Angeles following his 2021 screed against social justice movements, and against Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone last year for his Communion ban against then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Earlier this year, under Lewis' leadership, FIPL also highlighted the legal aspect of abortion after the fall of Roe v. Wade, organizing a webinar with Catholic women who called for compassion and continued dialogue. In 2021, FIPL’s sister organization (of which Lewis is now also CEO) pushed for the removal of the pro-life chairman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, over his perceived laser focus on abortion rather than a more full-orbed whole life witness.

Ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court decision this year in Merrill v. Milligan, Lewis also led FIPL in advocating for voting rights legislation, in light of various gerrymandering activities affecting African-American and other minority voters in the South and elsewhere.

Voting is sacred. Thus, we must unite in the fight to preserve access.
Jeanné Lewis explains her connection to the voting rights struggle, and how all people of goodwill—including public servants—must act now.

The Center for American Progress, from which FIPL was founded, is perhaps best known for its relationship with founder John Podesta—a left-oriented Catholic associated with the so-called “Podesta emails” during the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Though FIPL is not affiliated with any political party, its positions have generally been described as similarly progressive. 

Lewis, a member of the DC Working Families Party, attends a Black Catholic parish in Washington and served on the board of directors for FIPL from 2016 until her appointment as interim CEO in June 2022. She previously ran as an independent for the D.C. City Council in 2020.

Alongside its new CEO and coalition plans, FIPL has described its “new vision” in terms of five guiding values posted on its website, including liberation, transformative wisdom, community, intersectionality, and integrity. 

“We envision a country in which an experience of spiritual connection binds all people with one another and in which a sense of belonging in community gives every individual the confidence that their human rights are held sacred, making it possible for all to thrive,” the page reads.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger.

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