Saint Leo, one of the Oldest Catholic Universities in Florida, Holds Interfaith Panel on Religion in America

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Panelists include Jewish, Catholic and Muslim experts who are published authors

According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the religious climate in the United States is changing. Exactly how these changes could impact society is one of the questions to be explored at Saint Leo University, March 20 at 2 p.m. As one of the oldest Catholic universities in Florida, Saint Leo has a history of promoting interfaith dialogue. This panel discussion, “Religion and the Challenge of America: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” is free and open to the public.

The event sponsored by the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Saint Leo University, along with other organizations, will take place in the Greenfelder-Denlinger Boardroom of the Student Community Center on Saint Leo’s campus.

Religious Affiliations Change, Yet Belief in God Remains Strong

More than 35,000 Americans age 18 and older took part in Pew’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey and one of the key findings is that people often change their religious affiliation as adults. According to this survey, 28% of American adults left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion – or no religion at all. In addition, 92% say they believe in God or a universal spirit and more than half pray on a daily basis. The subject of religion in this country is of interest to those affiliated with Catholic universities and the community at large.

Panel Examines the American Expression of Islam

According to Dr. Abraham J. Peck, executive director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, the panel discussion will help focus social questions posed by contemporary religious demographics, and put those questions into historical context.
“Judaism, certain Christian groups, and Islam have faced or now face religious prejudice in America,” Dr. Peck said. “Judaism and Roman Catholicism have had to create their own American religious ‘comfort zones’ that have allowed them to become part of the American religious establishment. Now, Islam, with more than a billion believers worldwide and up to 7 million in the United States, waits for the opportunity to join its Abrahamic partners as part of the ‘new’ religious America. Can and should Islam look to its monotheistic partners as models for a successful integration into American religious life, including the need for interreligious dialogue?” Dr. Peck inquired, adding, “Or do the very new issues of the 21st century demand a much different approach in the creation of an American expression of Islam?”
The panelists for “Religion and the Challenge of America” are:

  • Rabbi A. James Rudin, Senior Interreligious Advisor, The American Jewish Committee; Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion and Judaica, Saint Leo University
  • Dr. Eugene Fisher, former associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Distinguished Professor of Catholic-Jewish Studies, Saint Leo University
  • Daisy Khan, executive director and co-founder, American Society for Muslim Advancement

Since all three presenters are also authors, a book signing and reception will follow the panel discussion. For more information, contact the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at (352) 588-7298.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo ranks as one of the top universities in the South, according to U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” list. Saint Leo’s traditional liberal arts campus, located 30 miles north of Tampa, educates more than 1,900 students. Total enrollment across its campus, continuing education centers, and online programs exceeds 15,000. Among the oldest Catholic universities in Florida, Saint Leo is one of the nation's 10 leading providers of higher education to the U.S. military, and is a nationally recognized leader in online education.

To learn more about the Catholic Jewish studies at Saint Leo University, visit:

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Jo-Ann Johnston
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