The Institute for Freedom & Community Announces April Events in Spring Series on Religion and Public Life

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Events will include a symposium on religious and political disagreement featuring four distinguished scholars of religion and a panel discussion on religious freedom among three renowned normative political theorists.

The Institute for Freedom and Community

The Institute for Freedom & Community at St. Olaf College will host two events with religious and political scholars as part of its Spring Series on Religion and Public Life. The two-day Symposium on Religious and Political Disagreement will be held on April 20 and 21, and the panel discussion Debating Religious Freedom Today will be held on April 27.

All speaker presentations on April 20, 21, and 27 are free and open to the public. They will be livestreamed at

Symposium on Religious and Political Disagreement
Thursday, April 20 and Friday, April 21
Four distinguished scholars of religion will address issues of religious and political disagreement as they bear on (a) diversity within the Christian community largely considered, (b) differences among evangelical Christians, (c) debates arising out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and (d) disagreements among the “world religions” (e.g., Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism) and secular perspectives in pluralistic and globalized societies. Sessions include:

Negotiating Difference Without Sacrificing Identity: Religion, Pluralism, and Globalization
Thursday, April 20 at 3:45 p.m., Tomson Hall 280 – Miroslav Volf
Volf’s lecture will focus on how we negotiate differences in pluralistic societies while remaining true to our deepest – and often tradition-based – commitments. Volf is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School and the founder and director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. His most recent books, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World and Public Faith in Action: How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity (co-authored with Ryan McAnnally-Linz) were released in 2016. He is actively involved in many top-level initiatives concerning Christian-Muslim relations.

Evangelicalism and Politics in the Trump Era: Definitions and Debates
Thursday, April 20 at 7 p.m., Tomson Hall 280 – Amy E. Black
Black's talk will explore how growing divides over cultural issues – especially LGBT rights – are testing the boundaries of evangelicalism and how Donald Trump's victory has revealed major fault lines in evangelicalism at the leadership and grassroots levels. Black is a professor of political science at Wheaton College. A recent book of hers is titled Honoring God in Red or Blue: Approaching Politics with Humility, Grace, and Reason. She regularly contributes commentary to the Christian Science Monitor and to the Center for Public Justice’s Capital Commentary.

Religious Diversity, Political Conflict, and the Spirituality of Liberation: The Voice of a Palestinian Christian
Friday, April 21 at 3:15 p.m., Tomson Hall 280 – Mitri Raheb
Raheb will present several theses based on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as his personal experience. Raheb is the founder and president of Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture in Bethlehem and the senior pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. One of his recent books is titled Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible through Palestinian Eyes. A social entrepreneur, he has founded several church-related organizations in addition to several other civic initiatives.

Trying to Live as a Christian in a Polarized Church and Society
Friday, April 21 at 4:30 p.m., Tomson Hall 280 – Robert Benne
Benne will argue that differences over core Christian teachings will lead to division, especially given the difficulty among differing Christian traditions in deciding what belongs in the core. Benne is the Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion Emeritus and research associate in the Religion and Philosophy Department of Roanoke College. A recent book of his is titled Good and Bad Ways to Think about Religion and Politics. In 2017, he will publish a book on Roanoke College’s relation to its Lutheran heritage.

Debating Religious Freedom Today
Thursday, April 27 at 7 p.m., Tomson Hall 280
This panel discussion will feature renowned normative political theorists Robert P. George, Cécile Laborde, and David Little. They will address issues revolving around the meaning, justification, and practice of religious freedom.

George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is also the Herbert W. Vaughan Fellow of the Witherspoon Institute. He has served as chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and with many other institutions and commissions. One of his recent books is titled Conscience and Its Enemies.

Laborde holds the Nuffield Chair of Political Theory at the University of Oxford. She was the founding director of University College London’s Religion and Political Theory Centre. She has published widely on theories of law and the state, pluralism, syndicalism, and on contemporary theories of nationalism, toleration, republicanism, multiculturalism, secularism, and global justice. She is notably the author of Pluralist Thought and the State in France and Britain and Critical Republicanism. 

Little is a fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University. He is a retired professor of religion, ethnicity, and international conflict at Harvard Divinity School and was an associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. Little has authored numerous articles on religion and human rights, religion and peace, and more. He is author of numerous publications and co-author of Islamic Activism and U.S. Foreign Policy.

These events are co-sponsored by the Martin E. Marty Chair in Religion and the Academy. All events will be hosted at St. Olaf College, 1520 St. Olaf Avenue, Northfield, Minn.

For more information on these events and speakers, visit

About The Institute
The Institute for Freedom & Community was established at St. Olaf College, a private liberal arts college, in 2015 to encourage free inquiry and meaningful debate of important political and social issues. The Institute programs, including coursework, Public Affairs Conversation, public affairs internships, and public lectures, aim to challenge assumptions, question easy answers, and foster constructive, respectful dialogue among those with differing values and contending points of view.

About St. Olaf College
One of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges, St. Olaf College offers a distinctive education grounded in academic rigor, residential learning, global engagement, and a vibrant Lutheran faith tradition. By cultivating the habits of mind and heart that enable graduates to lead lives of financial independence, professional accomplishment, personal fulfillment, and community engagement, St. Olaf College provides an uncommon educational experience that fully prepares students to make a meaningful difference in a changing world.

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