Future of Religion and Diplomacy

Events

Jan
16
Sat
National Religious Freedom Day
Jan 16 all-day

The National Religious Freedom Day commemorates the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s landmark, “Act for Establishing Religious Freedom” on January 16, 1786.

After numerous delays and revisions, as well as nine years of political debate, James Madison successfully convinced the Virginia legislature to pass Jefferson’s bill, which Governor Patrick Henry signed into law. As revised by the Virginia Assembly, Jefferson’s Act for Establishing Religious Freedom reinforced the shared belief that freedom of religion was both an inalienable right and a civil right. The role of a civil government, led by limited and fallible citizens, is to guarantee equality in access to public office and interfere with religion only when overt acts threaten peace and good order.

Even in this early documents, Virginia distinguished between the freedom to believe and the freedom to act on religious beliefs. A civil authority can regulate some religiously motivated behavior, but the authority must recognize its own limitations.

As noted below, Jefferson warned civil magistrates against making their own opinions the test for regulating religious behavior because, in doing so, the law would depend on their approval or condemnation of religions that conformed with or contradicted their own. The remedy was, therefore, to neither punish, burden, nor deprive legal standing to any citizen because of their religious beliefs, nor was it to compel citizens to frequent or support religion. Specific to the discussion of the rights of agents of the state, Jefferson’s bill, as amended, made clear that one’s religious beliefs do not “diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

The last segment of the bill recognized the limitations of their own legislative actions and warns future agents that by revoking this particular law, they would infringe on the ordained, natural right to citizens’ free exercise of religion. This politically charged conclusion gives us today an indication of the importance that these framers gave to religious liberty.


The text from the “Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” (June 18, 1779)

A Bill for the Establishment of Religious Freedom


 

WELL aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint:

  • That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend it by its influence on reason alone;
  • That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time:
  • That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical;
  • That even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness; and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;
  • That our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry;
  • That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right;
  • That it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it;
  • That though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;
  • That the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction;
  • That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous falacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;
  • That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;
  • And finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.

WE the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

AND though we well know that this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act11 irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.


 

 

Jun
30
Thu
Religious Literacy & Religious Liberty for Public Schools @ Newseum (Freedom Forum Entrance on Sixth Street)
Jun 30 @ 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Religious Literacy & Religious Liberty for Public Schools @ Newseum (Freedom Forum Entrance on Sixth Street) | Washington | District of Columbia | United States

Public schools in the United States have long been a battleground for cultural conflicts over the role of religion in the public square.   In recent decades, however, a broad agreement has been reached among education, civil liberties, and religious organizations that public schools can and should include study about religions in the public school curriculum.  We invite you to join our workshop to learn about pluralism, religious literacy, and the legal frameworks for teaching about religion in public schools.

Jul
21
Sat
Civil Dialogue Training @ Newseum’s Learning Center
Jul 21 @ 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.

 

Aug
13
Mon
Exploring Religious Identity and Race Through Civil Dialogue @ Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library
Aug 13 @ 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Exploring Religious Identity and Race Through Civil Dialogue @ Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library | Alexandria | Virginia | United States

Alexandria is a vibrant community of many races, ethnicities, and faiths. Diverse houses of worship make up the spiritual and cultural backbone of our community; yet often, we find it difficult to reach outside our own group. How well do we really know our neighbors? How often – and how effectively – do we communicate across boundaries to address difficult subjects and challenges?

We have found that many people have the will to get to know neighbors who believe and worship differently, but they often lack the way. Finding the way begins by exercising the skills of civil dialogue.

You are invited to a workshop that will help us to practice these skills. Alexandrians will share their perspectives on the importance of dialogue across boundaries, and we will learn to better understand ourselves and others. Workshop exercises will empower attendees to explore controversial topics using the skills of civil dialogue. The workshop will be led by Dr. Sabrina Dent of the Religious Freedom Center.

Refreshments will be served.

Sep
11
Tue
Difficult Dialogue: Lowering the Heat to Engage in Meaningful Conversations @ Wesley Theological Seminary
Sep 11 @ 4:45 pm – 6:15 pm
Difficult Dialogue: Lowering the Heat to Engage in Meaningful Conversations @ Wesley Theological Seminary | Washington | District of Columbia | United States

During this workshop, you will learn the basic theory of dialogue, essential skills needed for dialogue; tips for handling the heat when dialogue gets tough, and most importantly, you will learn how to create an environment that makes authentic dialogue possible.  The workshop will be facilitated by the Religious Freedom Center.

Sep
15
Sat
Civil Dialogue Training @ Newseum’s Learning Center
Sep 15 @ 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.

 

Dec
8
Sat
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.

 

Jun
1
Sat
Religious Literacy and Civil Dialogue Workshops (Cancelled) @ Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute
Jun 1 @ 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Religious Literacy and Civil Dialogue Workshops (Cancelled) @ Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute
These workshops have been cancelled.

Schedule

8:15 a.m. – 9 a.m.

Registration/Check-in


9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Workshop: Religious Literacy Workshop Aims to Understand Growing Diversity

We are now a nation of religious minorities: according to a major study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, no one sect or denomination accounts for more than 50 percent of the population. At the same time, FBI data indicates that growing religious diversity has been accompanied by an increase in religion-related hate crimes. Religious education can enhance recognition of the fundamental rights of people of all religions and none.

Join us for an interactive religious literacy workshop to gain essential knowledge and skills that promote understanding of increasingly religiously diverse communities. We will apply these essentials to real-world case studies on religion and race, immigration and sexuality. Recent cases such as arson attacks on three African-American churches in Louisiana and a California mosque will be part of the conversation.

Facilitated by Benjamin P. Marcus


12 – 1 p.m.

Lunch Break (on your own)


1 – 4 p.m.

Workshop: “Civil Dialogue: Antidote to the Zero Sum Game”

Our country is more polarized than ever around significant issues that impact the everyday lives of Americans. A pluralistic democracy depends on a marketplace of ideas, but in our current highly charged climate many Americans find themselves fostering a binary view of the world – us vs. them. The complexity of the issues facing our nation require leaders to be able to engage with people who are different from themselves and have the skills to find common ground with those they fundamentally disagree.

To be effective leaders we need to become civil dialogue practitioners, who can help our communities effectively navigate deep differences. This workshop will focus on the difference between dialogue and other kinds of engagement, the essential skills of dialogue, how to create an environment that promotes civil dialogue, and tips for turning down the ‘heat’ when dialogue gets tough.

Facilitated by Kristen Farrington


The registration cost is $50 per person for these workshops. Seats are limited. Registration is required. For more information, please contact Blair Forlaw at bforlaw@newseum.org