Miller Center

Religion in the Public Square

National Discussion and Debate Series
Religion in the Public Square

On Thursday, March 6, 2008 in Richmond, Virginia, the National Discussion and Debate Series examined the role of religion in the public square. Four participants debated the resolution: "Religion should have no place in politics or government."

Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Jacques Berlinerblau, Associate Professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, spoke in favor of the resolution. Chuck Colson, Founder and Chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries, and Bishop Harry Jackson, Senior Pastor of Hope Christian Church, argued against it. Evan Thomas, Editor at Large of Newsweek, moderated the debate.

Watch Online

Windows Media Real Media QuickTime MP3 PDF Q&A Transcript

Participants

Resolved: Religion should have no place in politics or government.

Evan Thomas
Evan Thomas, Newsweek's Editor at Large since 2006, is the magazine's lead writer on major news stories and the author of many longer features including special behind-the-scenes issues on presidential elections and more than 100 cover stories. He has been a regular weekly panelist on the syndicated public affairs talk show Inside Washington since 1992, and has appeared on numerous television shows including Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Thomas is the author of six books, including Sea of Thunder (Simon & Schuster, 2006), Robert Kennedy: His Life (Simon & Schuster, 2000), and The Very Best Men: The Early Years on the CIA (Simon & Schuster, 1995). A fellow of the Society of American Historians and a former trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, he began a five-year term at Princeton as Ferris Professor of Journalism in the fall of 2007.

Rev. Barry Lynn
Rev. Barry Lynn is Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to preserving the Constitution's religious liberty provisions. An activist and civil liberties lawyer, he is also an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Lynn was legislative counsel for the Church Office of Church in Society and for the D.C. office of the American Civil Liberties Union. He has frequently appeared on various television and radio shows, including The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Today, Nightline, 60 Minutes, and NPR's All Things Considered. Lynn was the regular co-host of Pat Buchanan and Company and host of a weekly syndicated radio program, Review of the News, with Oliver North. Author of Piety & Politics: The Right-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom (Harmony Books 2006), he has had essays published in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The Nation.

Chuck Colson
Chuck Colson is the Founder and Chairman of Prison Fellowship, a Christian non-profit organization that is the world's largest outreach program for prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families, and author of the new book The Faith (Zondervan, 2008). As Chief Counsel to President Richard Nixon (1969-1973), he pled guilty to Watergate-related charges in 1974 and served seven months in prison. Colson has written twenty-four books, including How Now Shall We Live (Tyndale House, 1999); The Good Life (Tyndale House, 2005); and his autobiographical book, Born Again (Chosen Books, 1976), which was made into a feature film in 1978. In 1991, he launched a daily radio program, BreakPoint, which provides a Christian worldview on current issues. He has received the Templeton Prize for progress in religion, the Humanitarian Award from Dominos Pizza Corporation, the Others Award from The Salvation Army, and several honorary degrees from colleges and universities.

Jacques Berlinerblau
Jacques Berlinerblau is Associate Professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University, where he also directs its Program for Jewish Civilization. His published work has appeared in scholarly and popular publications, including the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Biblical Interpretation, Semeia, History of Religions, Hebrew Studies, Encyclopedia Judaica, The Nation, and The Chronicle Review. He currently writes an online column for the Washington Post devoted to religion and the 2008 election titled "The God Vote." Berlinerblau is the author of numerous books, including Heresy in the University: The Black Athena Controversy and the Responsibilities of American Intellectuals (Rutgers University Press, 1999), The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously (Cambridge University Press, 2005), and Thumpin' It: The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Today's Presidential Politics (Westminster John Knox, 2008).

Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr.
Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. is Senior Pastor of Hope Christian Church in the Washington, D.C. area, and serves as a regional Bishop in the Fellowship of International Churches. He is also Founder and Chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, which empowers churches and community and political leaders to make grassroots efforts on local, state, and national levels. Jackson was named one of the top fifty most influential Christians in 2005 by the Christian Post. His radio commentary, "The Truth in Black and White," airs daily on more than 400 stations nationwide. Jackson has written several books, including High Impact African American Churches (co-authored with George Barna, Regal Books, 2004), which was nominated for the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association's Gold Medallion Award and received the Silver Medallion Award. He has appeared on many television programs including The Tavis Smiley Show, The 700 Club, and the CBS Evening News.

Research and Scholarship

White Paper

The Place of Faith in Politics and Government

Isabelle Kinnard, February 26, 2008

The relation of religion to politics and government is ever varying. It ranges over the millennia of recorded history from theocracy, to grudging toleration, to the formal separation of church and state. This variation is not surprising, given that both systems are naturally in competition... Read More

Student Debate

UVa Students Debate the Role of Religion in the Public Square

February 26, 2008, University of Virginia Chapel

In advance of the March 6 debate, the NDDS partnered with UVa's Washington Literary Society and Debating Union, and Orthodox Christian Fellowship, to host a debate on religion in the public square. Dr. Isabelle Kinnard delivered an opening forum on the issue... Read More

Presidential Recordings Project

White House Tapes Reveal Role of Religion during Johnson, Nixon Administrations

Whitehousetapes.org, February 22, 2008

Casual observers of politics often point to the early-1980s, with the rising influence of the Moral Majority, as marking a new and unprecedented era in the relationship between religion and politics. But historical evidence suggests that religion has been part of politics and government... Read More