News & Events
See a full archive of our 2016-17 events, along with videos, at https://www.sas.upenn.edu/dcc/events-workshops/2016-17.
Videos of past years' events are also available in the archives.
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.
National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street
KRISTINA ARRIAGA has worked on the defense of religious freedom domestically and internationally for over 20 years as Advisor to the United States delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, an appointee to the Civil Rights Commission, and as the Executive Director of Becket Law. She currently serves as the Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Arriaga is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on religious freedom, has spoken at numerous academic conferences, and has appeared on TV and radio programs including MSNBC, C-Span, FOX, CNN Español, and National Public Radio. Arriaga is the recipient of the 2017 Newseum’s Free Speech award.
DAN BARKER is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He was elected co-president of the Foundation with Annie Laurie Gaylor in 2004, with whom he is co-host of Freethought Radio, a national weekly talk show. He is a contributing editor of Freethought Today and is involved with the Foundation’s state/church lawsuits. He regularly travels the country and the world giving lectures, performing concerts, and participating in debates with theists, many at college and university campuses. A former minister and evangelist, his books include Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children and Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher To Atheist. Recent books include Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning (2015), GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction (2016), and the forthcoming Make Up Your Mind: Do We Really Have Free Will? (2018).
KHALID LATIF is Executive Director and Chaplain (Imam) for the Islamic Center at New York University (NYU). In 2005, Imam Latif was appointed the first Muslim chaplain at NYU. At NYU, Khalid initiated his vision for a pluralistic American Muslim community, rooted on campus and reaching out to the city. In 2006, Imam Latif was appointed the first Muslim chaplain at Princeton University. In 2007, Imam Latif's position was fully institutionalized at New York University, and so he committed himself to building Muslim community life there. Today's Islamic Center is a leader among American Muslim organizations, uniquely shaped to contribute to the future of Muslim practice in the West.
DAVID SAPERSTEIN was the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom for the Obama Administration from 2014-2017. Selected by Newsweek magazine in 2009 as the most influential rabbi in the country and described in a Washington Post profile as the "quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill," Rabbi Saperstein represented the Reform Jewish Movement to Congress and the Administration as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) for forty years. Also an attorney, Rabbi Saperstein teaches seminars in First Amendment Church-State Law and in Jewish Law at Georgetown University Law School.
ANNA SU is an Assistant Professor in the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Her primary areas of research include the law and history of international human rights law, U.S. constitutional law (First Amendment), and law and religion. Her research has appeared in the Vanderbilt Law Review, the International Journal of Constitutional Law and the Journal of the History of International Law. Prior to coming to Toronto, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy based in SUNY Buffalo Law School, and a graduate fellowship in ethics with the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.She is the author of Exporting Freedom: Religious Liberty and American Power (2016).
LEIGH E. SCHMIDT is the Edward C. Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis. He joined the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics in 2011. He is the author of numerous books, including Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment (2000), which won the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in Historical Studies and the John Hope Franklin Prize of the American Studies Association; Heaven’s Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr, and Madwoman (2010); and Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality (2005 and updated in 2012).
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.