Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Faculty Workshop Series

Co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Department of Religious Studies

ACCORDING TO THE TERMS OF THE INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT, passed by Congress in 1998, a unique history of religious freedom has endowed the United States with a special responsibility to promote this virtue abroad as a goal of foreign policy. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor has compiled annual watchdog-style reports on every country in the world – except for the United States itself – ever since. Yet how exceptional or exemplary is the U.S. record of accommodating religious freedoms? How have other countries, informed by their own histories and circumstances, negotiated complex terrains of religion, statehood and citizenship? And what are the states of religious freedom around the world today, in light of current controversies over abortion, sexuality, changing gender roles, religiously-motivated terrorism, the rights of religious minorities, and the establishment of official religions?

During its 2017-18 theme year on “STATES OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM,” Penn DCC will study the U.S. experience within a comparative international context, exploring how states – as political entities – accommodate or hinder religious expression and culture, as well as how social conditions – states of collective being – affect and influence the practice of religious freedom. 

  • Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 4:30pm

    Silverstein Forum, Stiteler Hall First Floor (Accessibility)
    Free and open to the public / Co-sponsored by the Penn Dept. of Religious Studies
    Discussant: Sarah Barringer Gordon (Penn Law)

    All attendees are encouraged to read Prof. Balmer's paper, available here.

    THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT’S MOST CHERISHED AND DURABLE MYTH IS ITS MYTH OF ORIGINS. According to this well-rehearsed narrative, articulated by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and countless others, after nearly half a century of electoral quiescence evangelical leaders were shaken out of their political complacency by the United States Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of January 22, 1973.  This abortion myth collapses, however, in the face of historical scrutiny – scrutiny carried out over decades by Professor Balmer to ascertain the true origins of the Religious Right.  It was a quest that took him to denominational records, magazine sources, and the archives of such institutions as Liberty University, Bob Jones University, the presidential libraries of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter, and the American Heritage Center in Laramie, Wyoming.  The real origins of the Religious Right, it turns out, were far from highminded and revolved around a fight between Bob Jones University and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the admission of African-American students. All attendees are encouraged to read Prof. Balmer's paper, available here.

    RANDALL BALMER is the John Phillips Professor in Religion at Dartmouth College. A prize-winning historian and Emmy Award nominee, he has published more than a dozen books, including Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter and The Making of Evangelicalism: From Revivalism to Politics and Beyond. His second book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, now in its fifth edition, was made into an award-winning, three-part documentary for PBS. His op-ed articles have appeared in newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, the Des Moines Register, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Anchorage Daily News, and the New York Times.

  • Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 4:30pm

    Silverstein Forum, Stiteler Hall First Floor (Accessibility)
    Free and open to the public

    ANTI-MUSLIM DISCRIMINATION HAS BECOME A CENTRAL ISSUE in the current U.S. political climate. Professor Yukich presents the first large-scale audit study of anti-Muslim discrimination in the U.S. that incorporates an intersectional framework including religion, ethnicity, and gender. Fictitious resumes were sent to 1,000 entry-level job openings in eight cities across the U.S. The study reveals that the amount of discrimination Muslims face depends on their ethnicity and gender: Arab Muslim men have the lowest callback rate, but white women face the largest penalty for being Muslim. These findings have implications for public policy and advance theories of intersectionality by demonstrating the inadequacy of additive approaches to discrimination.

    GRACE YUKICH is Associate Professor of Sociology at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. She is a sociologist whose research, writing, and teaching focus on immigration, religion, social movements & politics, race & ethnicity, and culture. Her first book, One Family Under God: Immigration Politics and Progressive Religion in America (2013), is an ethnographic study of how immigration is changing the relationship between religion and politics in the United States, especially migration from Latin America. She is currently finishing research for her next book, using experimental methods to measure discrimination against Arab American Muslims in the U.S. job market.

  • Thursday, March 1, 2018 - 4:30pm

    Silverstein Forum, Stiteler Hall First Floor (Accessibility)
    Free and open to the public

    RECENT EVENTS UNDERSCORE THE THREAT OF COW PROTECTION in India: as laws against cow-slaughter are tightened, religious and caste minorities are being brutally assaulted or killed. How should we combat this politics? One strategy challenges cow protection on religious freedom grounds, as an imposition of Hindu religious preferences in violation of the religious rights of non-Hindus. Another targets the framework of argument and evidence that supports anti-slaughter laws, to contest claims about the usefulness of each and every cattle on material grounds. Tracing the tangled history of cow protection, Professor Adcock shows how religious freedom and agriculture are two sides of the same coin: both feed the politics of cow protection.

    CASSIE ADCOCK is Associate Professor in the Department of History and in the religious studies program at Washington University in St. Louis. She specializes in religion in the political culture of modern north India. Her first book, The Limits of Tolerance: Indian Secularism and the Politics of Religious Freedom (2013), addresses the politics of religious conversion in India by providing a critical history of tolerance, a secularist ideal central to the Gandhian tradition. Her current book project traces the long history of cow protection in north India from 1881 until 1969. Her work has been supported by a Fulbright Scholar Award, an NEH-AIIS Senior Research Fellowship, and a Kluge Fellowship.


  • Thursday, March 22, 2018 - 4:30pm
    Silverstein Forum, Stiteler Hall First Floor (Accessibility)
    Free and open to the public

    HUSSEIN ALI AGRAMA is Associate Professor of Anthropology and of the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. His ongoing research interests are in the anthropology of law, religion, Islam, and the Middle East; in secularism, law and colonial power, and in the genealogies of sovereignty and emergency states. His work has been published in the journals Political TheoryComparative Studies in Society and History, and American Ethnologist, and in several edited volumes. He is the author of Questioning Secularism: Islam, Sovereignty and the Rule of Law in Egypt (2012).

  • Thursday, April 26, 2018 - 4:30pm
    Perry World House
    Free and open to the public

    JONATHAN FOX is Professor in the Department of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University in Israel. He specializes in the influence of religion on politics which he examines using both quantitative and qualitative methodology. His research also investigates the impact of religion on domestic conflict, terrorism, international intervention, and international relations. His other research interests include the quantitative analysis of Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" theory, nationalism, and ethnic conflict. His recent books on these topics include Religion in International Relations Theory: Interactions & Possibilities (2013, with Nukhet Sandal) and An Introduction to Religion and Politics: Theory & Practice (2013). Currently he is focusing on the issue of government religion policy as part of the Religion and State (RAS) project.

  • Friday, May 4, 2018 - 9:00am to 5:00pm

    DCC CAPS ITS 2017-18 THEME YEAR ON “STATES OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM" by addressing a series of challenging questions: What is religious freedom? Can it truly be universal? What are the rights of religious minorities when set against a nation's popular majority?  And when religious liberties seemingly conflict with gender and sexuality rights, which should prevail if the conflict cannot be resolved?  Panelists include Lori G. Beaman (University of Ottawa), W. Cole Durham (Brigham Young University), R. Marie Griffith (Washington University in St. Louis), Nadia Marzouki (Harvard Kennedy School), Daniel Philpott (University of Notre Dame), and Winifred Sullivan (Indiana University at Bloomington).