Friday, November 5, 2010

Panel to Tackle Topic of Religion in the Classroom

CHESTERTOWN—A panel of five distinguished scholars will explore the role of religion in America’s public schools Tuesday evening, November 16, in Chestertown. Entitled “Religious Literacy and Education: The Political Battle Over the Bible in Public Schools,” the event will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, on the Washington College campus, 300 Washington Avenue.

The panel was organized by the new Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture at Washington College, which provides a forum for the objective study of the role religion plays in public life. Its director, political science professor Joseph Prud’homme, will participate on the panel.

The chair of the College’s political science department, Melissa Deckman, will serve as moderator. An expert on religion and politics in America, Deckman is author of School Board Battles: The Christian Right in Local Politics (Georgetown University Press, 2004).

Special guest panelists are the Rev. Barry Lynn (pictured above) of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Dr. Diane Moore of Harvard University’s Divinity School, and Dr. Daniel Dreisbach of American University’s School of Public Affairs.

Rev. Lynn has been executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State for the past 18 years. A long-time civil-rights activist and lawyer, he also is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He often provides analysis of First Amendment issues on nationally broadcast television and radio news shows.

Lynn holds a law degree from Georgetown and a theology degree from Boston University. He has published two books: Piety & Politics: The Right-Wing Assault On Religious Freedom (Harmony Books, 2006) and First Freedom First: A Citizen's Guide to Protecting Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State (with C. Welton Gaddy, Beacon Press, 2008).

As director of the Program in Religious Studies and Education at Harvard Divinity School, Diane L. Moore focuses her studies and teaching on how religion relates to culture, ecology and human rights. An ordained Disciples of Christ minister, she serves on the editorial boards of the journals Religion and Education and the British Journal of Religious Education. She also chairs the American Academy of Religion's Task Force on Religion in the Schools, which recently completed a three-year initiative to establish guidelines for teaching about religion in K-12 public schools.

She holds degrees from Harvard Divinity School, Episcopal Divinity School and Union Theological Seminary and taught at Phillips Andover Academy before joining the Harvard faculty. She is author of Overcoming Religious Illiteracy: A Cultural Studies Approach to the Study of Religion in Secondary Education (Palgrave, 2007).

Daniel L. Dreisbach is Professor of Justice, Law and Society in the School of Public Affairs at American University, where he researches and teaches in the areas of constitutional history, First Amendment law and church-state relations. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia. Author or editor of numerous articles for scholarly journals and books, he wrote Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation between Church and State (New York University Press, 2002) and co-edited The Sacred Rights of Conscience (Liberty Fund, 2009).

Washington College will publish the panel’s proceedings as part of a peer-reviewed book series—Washington College Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture—that is a major component of the new Institute.

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