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The Role of Religion in Public Life

January 02, 2007

Category: Academics, Events, Politics, Religion & Philosophy, Students


Today the world faces a crisis never before seen on this scale in human history. All over the globe, human beings of all faiths and of none are wrestling with the question: what exactly is the proper role of religion in the public life of nations?   Proposed answers differ radically, even within individual nations. In the United States alone, some would welcome a system where religion dominates all phases of life, both public and private, while others argue with equal fervor that religion has no place at all in the public life of a democracy. Almost everyone takes a position somewhere along the continuum between those two views.

At the next Catawba College Community Forum on Tuesday, January 16, a two-person panel, moderated by Dr. Michael Bitzer, Chairman of Catawba's Department of History and Politics, will offer brief comments on this topic. The panelists' comments will be followed by a free-ranging question and answer session with the audience.

Panelist Ken Garfield spent fourteen years as religion writer and editor at The Charlotte Observer. In November 2006 he left the Observer to become director of communications for Charlotte's Myers Park United Methodist Church. Mr. Garfield serves on the board of "Mecklenburg Ministries," an interfaith group based in Charlotte. He has been a frequent speaker at religious, civic, and school groups and has appeared weekly on WBTV's Friday morning news show. His connection to Catawba extends back to 1979 when he and his wife Sharon were married in Omwake Dearborn Chapel on the Catawba campus. In 2004, their son Matthew graduated from Davidson College where his sister Ellen is currently a senior.

Mr. Garfield will be joined on the panel by Wake Forest University's Adjunct Professor of Christianity and Public Policy, Dr. James Dunn. From 1980 until 1999, Dr. Dunn was executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and he still serves that committee as president of its endowment. The Baptist Joint Committee, with offices in Washington, deals with issues of religious liberty and separation of church and state for fourteen Baptist conventions and conferences in the United States. Dr. Dunn has also served as a pastor and campus minister. He has appeared on news programs of all the major television networks and has been a frequent guest on television documentaries. He has also testified on numerous occasions before congressional committees, as he did in 2001 before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the confirmation of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Dr. Dunn's wife Marilyn is a well-known Baptist musician.

Come join what promises to be a rousing discussion of a timely topic at the Catawba College Community Forum, 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 16, 2007 in Tom Smith Auditorium of Ralph W. Ketner Hall on the campus of Catawba College. Admission, as always, is free.