FFRF-supported Roger Williams University symposium tackles state/church separation

RW Symposium

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is supporting a virtual symposium at the Roger Williams University School of Law in which some of the best minds in the country are speaking on the separation between state and church.

The one-day discussion with the title “Is This A Christian Nation?” will be held on Friday, Sept. 25, from 9:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m Eastern. The symposium will explore questions such as: Did the Founders intend the United States of America to be a Christian nation? Does it violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution to have a Latin cross on a World War I memorial on a public highway or a crèche on the front lawn of a town hall? How should history be used to resolve such questions? The nation’s foremost First Amendment specialists are assembling in an attempt to grapple with the timely subject.

The symposium is open to the public for a $25 fee; registration is required. For more information, click here. A detailed agenda can be found here. The last day to register is today, Tuesday, Sept. 22. The symposium also counts for Continuing Legal Education credit.

Among the luminaries participating in the symposium are Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law. He is the author of hundreds of professional and popular articles and the author or editor of a dozen books, including, most recently, co-written with Howard Gillman, The Religion Clauses: The Case for Separating Church and State. Chemerinsky is considered one of the most prominent legal scholars and public intellectuals in the nation.

The other notables include University of Pennsylvania Professor Marci A. Hamilton, whose writings include God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Also on the roster is John A. Ragosta, a historian at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello and the author of three books, including Religious Freedom: Jefferson’s Legacy, America’s Creed. Teresa M. Bejan is associate professor of political theory at Oxford University and the author of Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration. And Steven K. Green is the director of the Willamette Center for Religion, Law and Democracy and the author of seven books, including, most recently, The Third Disestablishment: Church, State, and American Culture, 1940-1975.

The symposium was previously meant to be held on Friday, March 27, at the main Roger Williams University campus in Bristol, R.I., but had to be rescheduled with a virtual format due to the pandemic.

“It’s going to be a thought-provoking and scintillating discussion,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “An examination of the claims by some that the United States is a ‘Christian nation’ is needed now more than ever.”

FFRF, which is underwriting the symposium’s costs, thanks its Legal Director Rebecca Markert, a graduate of the Roger Williams University School of Law, and FFRF Strategic Response Director Andrew Seidel, as well the Roger Williams University School of Law itself, for their work and initiative in making possible this symposium. Papers from the participants will be published in the Roger Williams University Law Review.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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