Religious Freedom Center > Events
Join us at the Newseum to learn about the Religious Freedom Center’s education programs and initiatives from current students, alumni and faculty. The Open House will include a special civil dialogue session facilitated by Kristen Looney, the Religious Freedom Center’s director of partnerships. This session will cover the necessary skills to engage in civil dialogue on difficult and controversial topics.
To register, contact Sabrina Dent, director of recruitment and admissions, at [email protected].
Final notice: Applications the Spring 2018 courses are due no later than Sunday, January 7, 2018.
Only those applicants who successfully submit their application by the Early Decision due date of November 1, 2017 will be eligible for scholarships in the Spring 2018 semester.
2018 brings heightened urgency to understand, advocate for and defend the first of America’s First Amendment freedoms: free exercise and non-establishment of religion. In a time when our liberties are being threatened by polarized perspectives and exclusionary politics, we are reminded daily that our country has no freedom at all unless we have freedom for all.
To step together into this challenge, the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute invites you to join us in recognizing and celebrating National Religious Freedom Day with a discussion on “Faith and Freedom in a Fractured America.”
This program will explore the intersection of difficult issues around faith and freedom in today’s fractured democracy. Featured panelists will illuminate the issues from a broad spectrum of religious and ideological perspectives. This experience will set the stage for continued dialogue and community-based workshops throughout 2018.
The panel discussion will be moderated by Jennifer Hawks, Associate General Counsel, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
This half-day symposium will explore the current state of religious diversity in America during a time of growing partisanship, polarization and religious bigotry. Experts from various sectors will identify philanthropic opportunities for building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive country.
Religious Freedom Center’s Committee on Religious Liberty will host a panel discussion about human rights violations and threats to basic freedoms in Turkey.
In July 2016, the attempted military takeover of the Turkish government resulted in a crackdown on the media and on dissenters of President Erdogan’s regime. Nearly 150,000 government employees — including prosecutors, judges, teachers and doctors — have been dismissed from their jobs with no right to appeal. More than 125,000 citizens have been detained and 60,000 are under arrest. With hundreds of media institutions taken over, shut down or threatened, and the highest number of jailed journalists in the world, independent media in Turkey have been almost decimated.
The panel will speak about the latest developments in Turkey and raise awareness of issues related to the government’s continued assault on individual freedoms.
President, Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.
Dr. Lantos Swett is the former chair and vice-chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and teaches human rights and american foreign policy at Tufts University. She currently serves as co-chair of the Board of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) and the Budapest-based Tom Lantos Institute. Dr. Lantos Swett also serves on the Advisory Board of UN Watch, the annual Anne Frank Award and Lecture, and The Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership, and Public Policy.
Journalist in exile and former editor-in-chief, Today’s Zaman.
Sevgi Akarçesme holds a master’s degree in international relations from Istanbul Bilgi University and another M.A. in political science from Temple University. Following her graduate studies in Philadelphia, Penn., she joined the Turkey Project at CSIS in Washington, D.C. Upon returning to Turkey, she worked at the Office of the President from 2008 until the end of 2010, where she gained invaluable government experience. After working as an advisor at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Center for Strategic Research from December 2010 to July 2011, she moved to her hometown Istanbul. After working as a correspondent and columnist for the daily Today’s Zaman, she became the newspaper’s last editor-in-chief before it was taken over by the Turkish government in March 2016.
Executive Director, Alliance for Shared Values, New York.
The Alliance for Shared Values is a nonprofit organization that promotes bringing together citizens of diverse backgrounds around shared values of humanity. Prior to his current position, Dr. Aslandogan served as the board president of the Institute of Interfaith Dialog in Houston, Tex., as a contributing editor for the The Fountain magazine, and on the board of scholars and practitioners of the Journal of Interreligious Dialogue. Dr. Aslandogan is the co-editor of “Muslim Citizens of the Globalized World: Contributions of the Gulen Movement,” published by the Institute of Interfaith Dialog. He publishes a column on Huffington Post. Dr. Aslandogan holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
President, Rumi Forum.
Emre Celik is an Australian living in Washington, D.C., and has served as president of the Rumi Forum since 2009. The Rumi Forum is an organization dedicated to intercultural and interfaith dialogue issues covering themes of pluralism, social cohesion, democracy, and peace-building. Emre has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Washington Times and numerous media outlets in Europe and Australia on issues of diversity and dialogue. He regularly speaks at universities and was a participant of a private roundtable at Harvard University that examined issues surrounding Muslim Americans. In October 2014, the Rumi Forum helped organize the first-ever White House Eid reception, at which Emre provided opening remarks. When living in Australia, Emre was on the Melbourne Advisory Committee for the Parliament of World Religions and the Victoria Police Multifaith Council.
In the upcoming case National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, the Supreme Court will decide whether California’s Reproductive FACT Act may require pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for the abortion industry despite free speech protections under the First Amendment. Specifically, the California law requires licensed medical centers that offer free, life-affirming help to pregnant women to advise women on how to obtain a state-sponsored abortion. Pregnancy centers must also include a phone number for a county office that refers women to Planned Parenthood and other abortionists. Additionally, the law requires non-medical pregnancy centers to add large disclosures in multiple languages about their non-medical status in all advertisements, including billboards and newspaper ads. Pro-life pregnancy centers and their advocates argue that this obscures and crowds out their pro-life speech.
NIFLA v. Becerra is set to be argued before the United States Supreme Court on March 20th. On March 16, join legal experts Denise Harle of Alliance Defending Freedom, Brianne Gorod of Constitutional Accountability Center, and Attorney General Rutledge for a panel discussion on the merits and implications of this case. SCOTUS reporter Kimberly Robinson of Bloomberg BNA will moderate the discussion.
Denise Harle serves as legal counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a member of the Center for Life. In this role, Harle focuses her litigation efforts on defending the First Amendment freedoms of medical and support staff working in pregnancy resource centers, as well as pro-life sidewalk counselors. She also works to defend pro-life legislation around the nation.
Brianne Gorod is Constitutional Accountability Center’s Chief Counsel. Before taking her current role, Brianne served as CAC’s Appellate Counsel. From 2009 to 2011, she was an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, served as a law clerk for Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, a law clerk for Judge Robert A. Katzmann on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and a law clerk for Judge Jed S. Rakoff on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Brianne’s academic writings have appeared in, among others, the Yale Law Journal, the Duke Law Journal, the Northwestern University Law Review, the Washington Law Review, and the NYU Journal of Law & Liberty.
Leslie Rutledge is the 56th Attorney General of Arkansas and first woman elected to the office. General Rutledge believes face-to-face conversations lead to real solutions. Since taking office, she began a mobile office program for all 75 counties, a military and veterans initiative, a metal theft prevention program and a cooperative disability investigations program to stop fraud in social security disability. In addition to her state responsibilities, Rutledge actively works on multi-state issues with other attorneys general to include serving as chairwoman of the Republican Attorneys General Association and vice chairwoman of the National Association of Attorneys General Southern Region.
Kimberly Robinson is Bloomberg Law’s Supreme Court reporter, covering the high court since 2012. In 2017, she wrote American Justice: The Supreme Court in Crisis, detailing the way individual justices and the institution as a whole reacted to the unprecedented situation the Court was plunged into following the death of longtime Justice Antonin Scalia. Prior to joining Bloomberg Law, Kimberly was an attorney at the global law firm Morrison & Foerster, LLP, where she was a member of the firm’s litigation group. She has a J.D. from Columbia University and a B.S. in Finance from Arizona State University.
The Religious Freedom Center and the Baha’is of the United States invite you to a reception followed by the U.S. premier screening and a panel discussion of the 25-minute film, “The Cost of Discrimination,” by journalist and film producer, Maziar Bahari. The film draws striking comparisons between the apartheid era system of education in South Africa and the denial of higher education to Baha’i youth in Iran. Shot partly in South Africa, it features Arash Azizi, well-known author, former BBC journalist, and co-host of a popular Iranian TV show. The impact on religious freedom of Iran’s influence in Yemen will also be addressed. Mr. Richard Foltin, a senior scholar at the Religious Freedom Center, will moderate a panel that will consist of Mr. Azizi, Ms. Diane Ala’i, representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, Dr. Farhad Sabetan, a U.S.-based spokesperson for the Baha’i International Community, and Mr. Saman Mobasher, who studied in the informal and discretely operated Baha’i Institute for Higher Education after being denied admission to university in Iran on account of his religion.
Use the password HOPE to get a ticket. There is limited seating to this event.
Secretary of State Pompeo is convening the first ever Ministerial to advance religious freedom in Washington, D.C., from July 24-26. The Religious Freedom Center at the Freedom Forum Institute/Newseum is holding a side event at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, July 27 — Security and Religious Freedom: How Do We Protect Both?
One of the most pressing questions in the world today is how best to protect both security and robust rights to religious freedom. Too often, governments across the world use security as a rationale to impose overly broad limits on religious exercise — from regulating religious garb and religious speech to limiting cultural productions and even cutting off access to houses of worship. This panel will examine how such limitations are worsening rather than bettering security and discuss the benefits of religious freedom for security, social stability and economic health.
Program panelists include Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, Neil Hicks, senior director for advocacy at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and Haroon Azar, program director for the Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom.
Asma Uddin, senior scholar of religious freedom at the Religious Freedom Center, will moderate the conversation.
Brian Grim, Ph. D.
Brian Grim is president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and a leading scholar on international religious demography and the socio-economic impact of religious freedom. His recent research finds that religion contributes $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, more than the combined revenues of the top companies including Apple, Amazon and Google. Brian is an affiliated scholar at Baylor University, Boston University and the Freedom Forum Institute. He is also recent chair of the World Economic Forum’s council on the role of faith, and he works closely with the United Nations “Business for Peace” platform. Brian is a Penn State alumnus and author of numerous works including “The Price of Freedom Denied” (Cambridge), “World Religion Database” (Brill), “World’s Religions in Figures” (Wiley), and “Yearbook of International Religious Demography” (Brill). He is also a TEDx speaker and a speaker at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos.
Neil Hicks is the senior director for advocacy at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. He has over 35 years of experience in the human rights field.
Neil began his career in human rights at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank. He worked as an executive assistant and researcher at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London, focusing on Egypt and Iran, between 1985 and 1991. He then worked at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in New York, later known as Human Rights First, for 27 years and in a variety of positions. During that time, he founded the organization’s Human Rights Defenders program, engaged in research and advocacy on a wide range of countries in the Middle East and beyond, and led the organization’s efforts to promote the protection of human rights as a central part of the U.S. government’s strategy to combat terrorism and counter violent extremism. Neil joined CIHRS in 2018.
Haroon Azar teaches National Security and Civil Liberties at UCLA School of Law. He is a Senior Fellow at UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations and Program Director for the Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom. Mr. Azar is a recognized national security expert with broad experience working with law enforcement and faith-based communities to further resilience mission areas. Prior to his current role, Mr. Azar was the Regional Director in Los Angeles for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Previously, Mr. Azar worked as Deputy Director for the Middle East, Africa, & South Asia in the Office of International Affairs at DHS Headquarters in Washington DC. His portfolio included providing the Office of the Secretary with policy counsel and management of international affairs related to homeland security. Additionally, Mr. Azar was responsible for negotiating bilateral and multilateral security agreements with international partners focusing on improving immigration policy, visa security, aviation security, border security, supply chain management, and counterterrorism efforts.
Mr. Azar earned his B.S. magna cum laude at California State University Dominguez Hills, and his J.D. from UCLA School of Law where he was Editor-in-Chief of UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law.
Asma T. Uddin is a fellow with the Initiative on Security and Religious Freedom at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations. She is also a research fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. Asma previously served as counsel with Becket, a nonprofit law firm specializing in U.S. and international religious freedom cases, and as director of strategy for the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, a nonprofit engaged in religious liberty in Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority contexts. She is widely published by law reviews, university presses and national and international newspapers. She is also an expert advisor on religious liberty to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and a term-member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In addition to her expertise in religious liberty, Asma writes and speaks on gender and Islam, and she is the founding editor-in-chief of altmuslimah.com. She graduated from the University of Chicago Law School, where she was a staff editor at the University of Chicago Law Review.
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.
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.
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 [email protected].
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.
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.
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.
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.