Future of Religion and Diplomacy


Religion in the National Discourse @ Knight TV Studio
Oct 29 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Religion in the National Discourse @ Knight TV Studio | Washington | District of Columbia | United States

Americans today are divided on a range of issues at the intersection of religion and state power. So much of our national discourse has been centered on questions like: Can government officials use religion to justify government policies? Should politicians use religion to garner support? How does the intersection of religion and politics affect society? What are the contours of the “separation of church and state”?

The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute and the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) welcomes four distinguished speakers from a diversity of political and religious backgrounds to discuss these questions.


Hoda Hawa
Hoda Hawa

Director, Policy & Advocacy, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)

Hawa oversees MPAC’s strategic initiatives in government and policy by engaging those circles at the highest levels and developing an active constituency around policy.

Hawa has written and spoken on subjects ranging from international religious freedom and national security to free expression and bullying. She has been featured on BBC, Al Hurra TV, Fox News, MSNBC, Voice of America, NPR and C-SPAN.

Hawa spoke at the first-ever groundbreaking event at the White House honoring and highlighting the contributions of American Muslim women during Women’s History Month. She was a speaker at the U.S. Institute for Peace panel discussion, “Religion, Violence and Coexistence” with Ambassador-at-Large Suzan Johnson Cook. Hawa writes frequently on issues that affect Americans both domestically and internationally, with an emphasis on those issues that impact American Muslims. She also has experience in dialogue development groups, interfaith activities and conflict resolution.

Hawa has a B.A. in Political Science from George Washington University with a concentration on international affairs and the Middle East and a master’s degree in Ethics, Peace and Global Affairs focusing on Islam, ethics and conflict resolution from American University’s School of International Service.

Ayesha N. Khan
Ayesha N. Khan

Partner, Potomac Law Group

Khan has represented a party or a friend-of-the-court in 35 U.S. Supreme Court cases, more than 100 federal and state appeals and scores of trial-level cases. Formerly a deputy chief in the Appellate Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice and the legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, she also has extensive managerial and supervisory experience in the litigation sphere.

As a partner with Potomac Law Group, she focuses on appellate litigation in state and federal courts around the country and partners with trial-level litigators to ensure issues are fully and properly preserved and presented for appeal on behalf of commercial, municipal and individual clients. She also provides an array of litigation-consulting services to nonprofit advocacy organizations, ranging from mentoring attorneys to providing strategic counsel on litigation.

Khan is admitted to practice in Maryland and the District of Columbia, every federal circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. She received her J.D. from The University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law and her B.A. from the University of Michigan. She can be reached at akhan@potomaclaw.com.

Melissa Rogers
Melissa Rogers

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings Institution

Rogers is a nonresident senior fellow in Governance Studies. She served as special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships during the Obama administration. Rogers previously served as chair of the inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Prior to that she was director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. She also served as executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Her areas of expertise include the First Amendment’s religion clauses, religion in American public life and the interplay of religion, policy and politics. Rogers co-authored a case book on religion and law for Baylor University Press, “Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court” (2008). She holds a J.D. from University of Pennsylvania Law School and a B.A. from Baylor University.

Tim Schultz
Tim Schultz

President, 1st Amendment Partnership

As president of the 1st Amendment Partnership, Schultz directs all aspects of the organization’s work, building faith alliances, guiding public policy and educating key influencers on religious freedom issues.

Prior to the 1st Amendment Partnership, he served as state legislative director for the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program (ARFP). In that role, Schultz directed ARFP’s state policy initiatives, including developing and guiding coalition efforts to establish bipartisan religious freedom caucuses in 30 state legislatures. Schultz is widely viewed as a leading expert on religious freedom issues, with a focus on state policy issues.

In his 15 years of experience developing state and federal policy, Schultz has testified before Congress and more than 15 state legislatures.

Schultz is frequently featured in national media, including the Associated Press, NPR, Deseret News, The Hill, Christian Broadcast Network, The Daily Beast and The New York Times.

Schultz is a former instructor at George Mason University and was a staffer in the Washington office of Sen. Bob Dole’s presidential campaign. He is a graduate of Kansas State University and Georgetown University Law School.


Kavneet Singh
Kavneet Singh

Board Chair, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)

Singh serves as board chair for SALDEF, the nation’s oldest Sikh American civil rights, media and education organization. He works for a national health care organization where his leadership responsibilities relate to performance management and strategy execution. Singh has brought these skills to SALDEF, advising on strategy, advising on SALDEF’s interactive curriculum, “Sikhism 101 for Law Enforcement,” assisting in training local, state and federal law enforcement officials about awareness and protocol and addressing audiences about Sikhism, the Sikh-American community, civil rights and diversity at regional and national forums. Singh has been quoted on CNN, NBC and Huffington Post and has appeared on local, national and international broadcast and radio interviews.

Singh also serves as a member the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition and on the advisory board of the Prison Religion Project at Saint Mary’s College of California. He has been actively involved with providing mentorship at various Sikh youth camps across the country over the past decade and instructed students in Sikh history and ethos at the El Sobrante Gurdwara.

Born in Michigan and raised in California, Singh lives with his wife, Dr. Karen Singh and family in the San Francisco Bay area, is a diehard Lakers fan and received his B.A. from The University of California, Berkeley.

Following the panel discussion, SALDEF will host a reception for all program attendees.

Race, Religious Freedom and the Politics of Belonging @ Knight Conference Center
Oct 29 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Race, Religious Freedom and the Politics of Belonging @ Knight Conference Center | Washington | District of Columbia | United States

This public conversation will explore the complex politics of race and religious freedom in our contemporary moment.

This program is the first in a series of public events exploring the politics of religious freedom and introduces some of the key themes that will be featured in our January 2019 intensive course, “African Americans and Religious Freedom.”


The Hon. Suzan Johnson Cook

The Hon. Suzan Johnson Cook (Ambassador Sujay) is an instructor at the Freedom Forum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center. Nominated by Secretary Hillary Clinton and appointed by President Barack Obama, she was the third U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, becoming the first woman, first African American and first faith leader to hold this post. She visited more than 28 countries and had more than 100 U.S. diplomatic engagements, always focusing on her mission and always, whenever possible, sitting with women of the various nations with which she engaged. Previously, she was the first female chaplain for the New York City Police Department, where she served 21 years and was on the frontlines of Sept. 11. She was a founding member of A Partnership of Faith and served as a senior parish pastor for three New York City congregations. She was the first female president of the historic Hampton University Ministers Conference, the largest conference of African-American clergy in the world, leading some 12,000 clergy leaders. She is widely published and proficient as a preacher and keynote speaker through her own professional speakers’ bureau.

Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D.

Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D., is professor and dean of the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, D.C. She is a scholar of African-American religious history, womanist theology, African-American literature and race and religion. In addition to being a widely published author, Pierce is a dedicated mentor, community activist, board member of a foster care agency, cable news commentator and native New Yorker. For additional information, please visit her website, http://www.yolandapierce.com, or follow her on Twitter (@ynpierce).

Corey D. B. Walker

Corey D. B. Walker is a scholar of African-American social, political and religious thought. He currently serves as vice president of Virginia Union University and 10th dean of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, where he is also professor of religion and society. In 2018, he was appointed Senior Fellow in Religious Freedom at the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute in Washington, D.C. Prior to his current position, he served as a member of the faculty and in administrative leadership positions at Brown University, University of Virginia and Winston-Salem State University. He is the author of A Noble Fight: African American Freemasonry and the Struggle for Democracy in America (University of Illinois Press), editor of the special issue of the journal Political Theology on “Theology and Democratic Futures” and associate editor of the award-winning SAGE Encyclopedia of Identity. He has published more than 50 articles, reviews, book chapters and essays appearing in a wide range of scholarly journals and co-directed/co-produced the documentary film fifeville with acclaimed artist and filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson. Currently, he is finalizing his next book exploring race, religion and American public life titled, Between Transcendence and History: An Essay on Religion and the Future of Democracy in America.

Brad Braxton, Ph.D.

Brad Braxton, Ph.D., is director of the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. He holds a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Emory University, a master’s degree in theology from the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he was a Jefferson Scholar. Braxton’s expertise in religion, diversity, inclusion and social justice makes him a highly sought-after public speaker.

Braxton is also a seasoned educator who has held lectureships at Georgetown University, Harvard Divinity School and McCormick Theological Seminary, as well as professorships at Southern Methodist University, Vanderbilt University and Wake Forest University. Additionally, he is the founding senior pastor of The Open Church, a culturally inclusive congregation in Baltimore.

Participants are invited to a reception prior to the program.

Henry Luce Foundation

This program was made possible by generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation.



Baptist Joint Committee
Hood Theological Seminary
Howard University School of Divinity
Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church
Payne Theological Seminary
Samuel Dewitt Proctor-Theology
Shaw University Divinity School


Business Success in a Religiously Diverse World @ Knight TV Studio
Dec 4 @ 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Business Success in a Religiously Diverse World @ Knight TV Studio | Washington | District of Columbia | United States

Corporate Religious Diversity & Inclusion Training

On the morning of Dec. 4, 2018, the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation will launch a cutting edge Corporate Religious Diversity & Inclusion Training program. Organizers are confident this program will shift the national discussion in America from suspicion and division about religious liberty to an embrace of the bedrock value enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: freedom of religion and belief.

A panel of top CEOs will speak in support of workplace religious diversity and inclusion and why they have been vital elements of their business success.

A soft launch of the Religious Diversity & Inclusion Assessment Tool, prepared by the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, will also be held. The tool helps businesses and organizations assess how well they are supporting workplace religious diversity and inclusion and fulfilling the aspirations of the Corporate Pledge.

Civil Dialogue Training @ Newseum’s Learning Center
Dec 8 @ 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Civil Dialogue Training @ Newseum’s Learning Center | Washington | District of Columbia | United States

The Religious Freedom Center, as a nonpartisan and nonsectarian initiative, is committed to promoting dialogue and understanding among people of all religious traditions and none. We carry out this mission by providing civil dialogue training and workshops, hosting the Committee on Religious Liberty, and building partnerships with organizations that represent a broad spectrum of religious and ideological perspectives.

Religious and civic leaders, educators, and business leaders are uniquely positioned to help cultivate an informed and engaged citizenry. Having the ability to facilitate dialogue is a key leadership skill for the 21st century. As sharp ideological divisions continue to polarize our communities, we need leaders who have the skills to engage people and communities who hold a variety of legal, ideological, religious and nonreligious perspectives.

We invite you to join one of our full-day civil dialogue training sessions or to schedule one with your community. The workshops will be facilitated by Rev. Kristen Farrington, civil dialogue specialist and director of the Religious Freedom Center.

upcoming sessions

  • Saturday, September 15, 2018 (registration due date is September 7, 2018)
  • Saturday, December 8, 2018 (registration due date is November 30, 2018)

training features

  • Dialogue theory
  • Learning and practicing the skills of dialogue
  • Learning how to facilitate dialogue
  • Learning the practical steps to setting up dialogue sessions in your community.

Sign up online today. These training sessions are free but seats are limited. Registration is required.  For more information, please contact Dr. Sabrina Dent at sdent@newseum.org.