Future of Religion and Diplomacy


‘American Heretics’ Film Screening @ Newseum's Knight Conference Center
Sep 6 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm

At what other point in our history has the line between church and state become so tangled and polarizing? We’ve entered a time where the power of negative partisanship has sorted us along the lines of race and religion.

The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute invites you to a film screening of the documentary, “American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel.”

“American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel” takes audiences into the buckle of the Bible belt, where a group of defiant ministers, congregations and community leaders are challenging deeply-rooted fundamentalist Christian doctrine in favor of a Gospel of Inclusion. Labeled “heretics” for their beliefs and actions, they refuse to perpetuate fundamentalist Christian interpretations that continue to justify nationalism and hack away at landmark civil rights protections for women, minorities, immigrants and LGBTQ communities.

Compelling insights by religious and constitutional experts offer a broader historical context and trace the 30-year rise of the Christian Right’s influence in national politics, which has helped fuel today’s polarized political landscape.

This poignant story challenges what we think we know about the Christian heartland by offering a rare personal glimpse into the contentious and often misunderstood history of religion, race, and politics in America.

Directed and produced by Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Jeanine and Catherine Butler of Butlerfilms, edited by award-winning editor Jamie Lee Godfrey and cinematography by Peter Hutchens.

Trailer & Quotes


“In tune with both scripture and modern attitudes about equality and kindness”
– Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

– Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times

“Butlers’ film deserves a place in the growing national conversation about what has happened in America”
– Roger Moore, Movie Nation

Speakers Include

Bishop Carlton Pearson

Bishop Carlton Pearson is a progressive spiritual teacher, author, activist/humanist and peace agent. He is the founder of the Metacostal Network of Churches and Ministries, bridging the gap between his Pentecostal roots in spiritual transcendence and embracing a metaphysical approach to ministry and progressive spirituality. He is featured in the documentary film “American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel” and his life story serves as the basis for the Netflix original movie titled, “Come Sunday,” produced by Endgame Entertainment and This American Life.

Rev. Marlin Lavanhar

A graduate of Harvard Divinity school, Rev. Marlin Lavanhar is the senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla. In 2008, Marlin invited Bishop Carlton Pearson and his remaining Pentecostal flock to join All Souls, creating a truly integrated congregation that includes liberal Christians, progressive humanists and conservative Pentecostals. Rev. Marlin and his work is featured in “American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel.”

Robert Jones, Ph.D.

Robert Jones, Ph.D. is a leading scholar, author and commentator on religion, culture and politics. He is the founding chief executive officer of the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture and public policy. Dr. Jones is featured in the documentary film “American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel.”

Rachel Laser

Rachel Laser is a lawyer, advocate and strategist who has dedicated her career to making our country more inclusive. She has a proven track record of uniting both faith and secular leaders and advocacy organizations to make tangible progress on some of the most important issues of our time. She currently serves as president and chief executive officer of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The Hon. Suzan Johnson Cook

The Hon. Suzan Johnson Cook (Moderator) is a distinguished lecturer 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.

Jeanine Isabel Butler

Jeanine Isabel Butler is an award-winning director, producer and writer of Butlerfilms, LLC, specializing in documentaries and nonfiction entertainment for television, museums, educational nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). She is the director, co-producer and co-writer of “American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel.”

Catherine Lynn Butler

Catherine Lynn Butler is an Emmy award-winning documentary writer/producer of Butlerfilms, LLC, who develops and delivers impactful long and short form documentaries for television, museums, educational nonprofits and NGOs. She is co-producer and co-writer of “American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel.”

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

Henry Luce Foundation

‘When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom’ @ Knight TV Studio
Sep 10 @ 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

The Religious Freedom Center and Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) will host a celebration of the publication of Asma Uddin’s “When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom.” The event will kick-off with Uddin in conversation with Tom Gjelten of National Public Radio, followed by a panel discussion among leaders from diverse faith communities.

About the Book:

Religious liberty lawyer Asma Uddin has long considered her work defending people of all faiths to be a calling more than a job. Yet even as she seeks equal protection for Evangelicals, Sikhs, Muslims, Native Americans, Jews and Catholics alike, she has seen an ominous increase in attempts to criminalize Islam and exclude American Muslims from their inalienable rights.

Somehow, the view that Muslims aren’t human enough for human rights or constitutional protections is moving from the fringe to the mainstream along with the claim, “Islam is not a religion.” This conceit affects all Americans because the loss of liberty for one means the loss of liberties for everyone.

“When Islam Is Not a Religion” also looks at how faith in America is being secularized and politicized and the repercussions this has on debates about religious freedom and diversity.

Woven throughout this national saga is Uddin’s own story. She combines her experience as a person of Muslim faith and her legal and philosophical appreciation that all individuals have a right to religious liberty. Uddin examines the shifting tides of American culture and outlines a way forward for individuals and communities navigating today’s culture wars.


Asma T. Uddin

Asma Uddin is the author of “When Islam Is Not a Religion,” senior scholar at the Freedom Forum Institute, visiting scholar at Brigham Young University Law School and a nonresident fellow at Georgetown and UCLA. She previously served as counsel at Becket and is currently an expert adviser on freedom of religion or belief for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Tom Gjelten

Tom Gjelten is the religion and belief correspondent for National Public Radio news. Gjelten has worked for NPR since 1982, when he joined the organization as a labor and education reporter. More recently he has covered diplomatic and national security issues. He is based at NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Dalia Mogahed

Dalia Mogahed is the director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, where she leads the organization’s pioneering research and thought leadership programs on American Muslims. Mogahed is former executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, where she led the analysis of surveys of Muslim communities worldwide. With John L. Esposito, she co-authored the book, “Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think.”

Kevin Singer is Co-Founder of Neighborly Faith, an organization helping evangelical Christians to be good neighbors to people of other faiths. Neighborly Faith runs a popular weekly podcast and a fellows program with evangelical college students across America, and will host conferences at Gordon College and Wheaton College in 2019. Kevin is a PhD student in higher education at North Carolina State University, where he serves as Research Associate for IDEALS, a national study of how religious diversity on college campuses is affecting students.

Jaideep Singh

Jaideep Singh is a scholar/activist whose work examines the intersections of racial and religious bias in contemporary society, and the racialization of religious identity in the post-9/11 era. He has earned from UC Berkeley a B.A. in History, with a focus on the comparative histories of peoples of color in the Americas, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies. Dr. Singh has taught courses elucidating upon the centrality of race, gender, ethnicity, and class in both U.S. history and contemporary society at several universities.

Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman is the author of “Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom” and president and co-founder of Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms. Previously he was senior adviser to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, serving in the Office of Strategic Planning.