Religious Freedom Center > Events
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 (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., 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 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., 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.
This program was made possible by generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation.
We have recently seen several long-time leaders in the field of religious freedom — with various political perspectives and of diverse faiths — step down from their positions, some to seek other opportunities and others to enjoy a well-earned retirement. Interestingly, as these friends of the Religious Freedom Center have moved on, the new leaders of these organizations, which have been historically led by men, are now mostly women.
While each organization is different, and doubtless each of them sought the best person for the job, this development raises several interesting questions: Has something changed at these institutions to expand the talent pool in which they are looking — and does that have something to do with changes in their respective faith traditions? Is there some change, from the perspective of the candidates for these jobs, in terms of seeing these positions as right for them? What are the top advocacy issues on which these new leaders are working, and does their bringing a woman’s perspective to the job make a difference? What are the implications of current religious freedom issues for women in particular? To what extent, if any, do these leaders see part of their role as influencing the role of women in their respective faiths and denominations, as opposed to dealing with external legal and societal issues?
Join the Freedom Forum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center for a panel discussion among current female executive directors of prominent religious liberty organizations on the rising role of women in leading these organizations. Melissa Rogers, former special assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, will moderate.
The panelists include:
Studies demonstrate that employees who can bring their "whole selves" to the workplace perform better in many bottom line key indicator areas. Bringing one’s whole self includes religious identity. Many companies, however, are struggling to navigate religion and beliefs at work.
In fact, 36 percent of American workers — approximately 50 million people — have experienced or witnessed religious discrimination in the workplace, with religious majorities, minorities and non-religious employees all reporting this experience. This has direct impact on employee and company performance. Additionally, while companies have rightly paid significant attention to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, workplace religious discrimination complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) outnumber sexual orientation complaints two-to-one.
Addressing religion and belief in the workplace is the next big focus. Join us Wednesday, Feb. 13 for an in-depth discussion of workplace religion and beliefs and an introduction to resources to help organizations large and small design successful policies and procedures for honoring religion in the workplace.
This panel discussion will include top business leaders speaking in support of workplace religious diversity and inclusion (RDI). Leaders will provide a business case for why RDI helps bottom lines and outline best practices being implemented in workplaces to facilitate religious expression and engagement at work.
The program will also feature the soft launch of the Corporate Religious Diversity Assessment, an internal, qualitative assessment tool created in partnership by Tanenbaum and the RFBF. Until now, there has been no public tool for companies to specifically measure the success of their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts as they relate to religion. Inspired by the framework of the RFBF’s Corporate Pledge, the CRDA provides a solid framework for businesses and organizations to evaluate their religious DEI efforts on a global scale, and then identify and initiate next steps in their DEI journey.
The Religious Freedom Center and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) invite you to join a panel of experts for a timely discussion about the role of religious studies in the public school curriculum. What is religious literacy and why is it essential for citizenship in a religiously diverse society and world? The event celebrates the publication of “Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom,” an invaluable new resource from NCSS.
The study of religion is essential for understanding the past and present, and critical for global citizenship in a religiously diverse country and world. This book provides advice, recommendations, and resources to help social studies educators know what to teach about religion and how to do it.
The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that teaching about religion is constitutional in public schools, as long as the approach is academic, not devotional. The contributors to this book offer guidelines for classroom instruction that is both constitutionally and academically sound. They clarify the First Amendment issues that impact teachers and schools, and emphasize that the study of religion in schools is an essential part of a good education.
The authors explore the diversity of religious traditions and suggest ways of teaching about them objectively, especially through creative pedagogies that engage students actively and offer them a more profound understanding of these traditions than many textbooks provide. This invaluable book will help teachers promote knowledge and understanding in the place of stereotypes as they advance religious literacy among their students.
|Benjamin P. Marcus||Charles C. Haynes||Kristen Farrington||Scott Abbott||Susan Douglas|
This public conversation will explore the ethics and complex politics of race and religious freedom by centering the issues, narratives and experiences of African Americans in the United States.
This program is the second in a series of public events exploring the politics of religious freedom through our “Religious Freedom: African American Perspectives” project. During this program, participants will hear from scholars, practitioners and community leaders who are making invaluable contributions to this critical discussion. This program is also designed to encourage participants to think through practical ways to take action around religious freedom issues in their community. Participants will engage in small group discussions, a community talkback session and explore opportunities to think through next steps together.
Tisa Joy Wenger, Ph.D., is associate professor of American Religious History at Yale Divinity School as well as of American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale University. She is the author of “Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal” (University of North Carolina Press, 2017).
Corey D.B. Walker, Ph.D. (moderator), visiting professor at the University of Richmond and senior fellow, Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute.
Teresa Smallwood, J.D., Ph.D., associate director for Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative at Vanderbilt University.
Alphonso F. Saville IV, Ph.D., Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow for the Study of American Religion and Slavery at Georgetown University.
Faith Harris, D.Min. (moderator), assistant professor of Theology and director, Johnson A. Edosomwan Center for Faith, Leadership, and Public Life at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology.
Itihari Toure, Ed.D., director of the Sankofa Center for Data Evaluation and Quality Enhancement at Interdenominational Theological Center.
Charles Watson Jr., M.Div., director of education for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
Mandisa L. Thomas, founder and president, Black Nonbelievers, Inc.
Iva Carruthers, Ph.D., general secretary of Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, a social justice network that engages progressive African-American faith leaders.
The Rev. Thomas Bowen (moderator), director of the Office of Religious Affairs in the Executive Office of the Mayor of Washington, D.C., and interim director of the Mayor’s Office on African American Affairs and the Commission on Fathers, Men and Boys.
Rahmah A. Abdulaleem, Esq., executive director, KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.
Charity L. Woods, co-founder and managing director, Interfaith Voices for Reproductive Justice.
Shavon Arline-Bradley, MPH, M.Div., founding principal of R.E.A.C.H. Beyond Solutions LLC, a public health, policy/advocacy, faith and executive leadership firm.
The Rev. William H. Lamar IV, M.Div., pastor of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington.
This program was made possible by generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation.
The Religious Freedom Center and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) will host a celebration of the publication of “Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom,” an invaluable new resource from NCSS.
About the Book: The study of religion is essential for understanding the past and present, and critical for global citizenship in a religiously diverse country and world. This book provides advice, recommendations and resources to help social studies educators know what to teach about religion and how to do it.
|Charles C. Haynes||Benjamin P. Marcus||Kristen Farrington||Susan Douglas||Donna Phillips, PhD|
The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute will host the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Summer Religious Studies Institute at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The program, to be held July 9 – 11, 2019, will convene K-12 public school educators in the nation’s capital to explore issues of religious freedom and diversity in the classroom. Educators will learn about religious studies as an academic discipline, and have the opportunity to develop working relationships with leading religious studies subject matter experts and curricular resource providers.
The NCSS Summer Religious Studies Institute is limited to 60 participants. For more information and to register, please visit socialstudies.org.
The world is increasingly visual, story-driven and mobile dominated. It’s urgent we identify, equip and mobilize leaders to create short films to share empowering messages.
The Dare to Overcome film competition challenged women filmmakers from around the world to produce short films that showcase inclusivity and multi-faith living in the workplace and community.
In partnership with the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and Empower Women Media, we will showcase women’s short films that are compelling explorations of the impact of freedom of belief and how this helps empower women, religious minorities and the displaced. The screening will include a panel discussion with film makers and a reception.
Iranian-American Shirin Taber directs the Middle East Women’s Leadership Network and Empower Women Media. She is passionate about helping leaders produce media for their missions.
Brian Grim, Ph. D., is president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and a leading scholar on international religious demography and the socio-economic impact of religious freedom.
The Hon. Suzan Johnson Cook (Ambassador Sujay) 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.
This event is sold out. Please contact Robin Guyse to see if you can get on the waiting list. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
“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
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.
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. 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 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 (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 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 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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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 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.