Religious Freedom Center > Events
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.
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.
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|
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
Lunch Break (on your own)
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 [email protected]
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.