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, March 1, 2018 - 4:30pm

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

    Discussant: Donovan Schaeffer (Penn Religious Studies)

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

    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. Drawing on contemporary and historical material, Professor Adcock argues that a religious approach is counter-productive. Analytically, it yields an inadequate description of cow protectionist politics, past or present. Politically, it makes an unstable basis from which to resist Hindu majoritarianism.

    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.

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


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

    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
    Silverstein Forum, Stiteler Hall First Floor (Accessibility)

    Free and open to the public / Food provided

    IN HIS RESEARCH, Jonthan Fox has examined the extent of religious discrimination against 313 religious minorities in 68 Christian-Majority democracies. Despite expectations that liberal democracies should have religious freedom, religious discrimination is common. Also, despite Western democracies being considered the most liberally democratic democracies and the source of the liberal democratic ideology that supports religious freedom, religious discrimination is higher in Western democracies than in Christian-majority democracies in the developing world.

    JONATHAN FOX is the Yehuda Avner Professor of Religion and Politics, director of the Religion and State (RAS) project (, and a senior research fellow at Bar-Ilan's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. 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 An Introduction to Religion and Politics: Theory & Practice, Second edition (Routledge, 2018); Political Secularism, Religion and the State: A Time Series Analysis of Worldwide Data (Cambridge University Press, 2015); and The Unfree Exercise of Religion: A World Survey of Discrimination against Religious Minorities (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

  • Friday, May 4, 2018 - 9:00am to 5:00pm
    Houston Hall, Bodek Lounge (1st Floor)

    THE ANDREA MITCHELL CENTER 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), Heiner Bielefeldt (University of Erlangen), W. Cole Durham (Brigham Young University), Mayanthi Fernando (UC Santa Cruz), R. Marie Griffith (Washington University in St. Louis), Nadia Marzouki (Harvard Kennedy School), Joshua Matz (Gupta Wessler PLLC), and Daniel Philpott (University of Notre Dame).