Free Speech and Religion

The Society of Fellows Explores Religious Pluralism with Author David Campbell

July 16, 2013  • Caroline Tory

Society of Fellows members recently participated in a day-long symposium titled “An Inclusive America: Does Religion Still Divide Us?” Moderator David Campbell, co-author of the award-winning book “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us,” led participants in a discussion on reconciling a pluralist system with the growing religious diversity in the United States.

The lunch session featured guest speaker Meryl Chertoff, director of the Aspen Institute Justice and Society Program. Campbell worked closely with Chertoff as a technical advisor on the recently published “Principled Pluralism: Report of the Inclusive America Project.” The symposium provided the perfect opportunity to share their research first-hand with SOF donors. 

The report comes at a crucial time. Following the Boston marathon bombings, the issue of religious radicalization is ever-present. One of the goals of the report, and of the conversations taking place at the symposium, is to “shrink the pool of people susceptible to self-radicalization,” said Chertoff. In the Aspen Institute spirit of turning ideas into action, both Campbell and Chertoff proposed a number of solutions. They spoke of the importance of bridging — finding opportunities for Americans of diverse religious backgrounds to work together across faith lines. According to Campbell, this can be facilitated through community service, the arts, and by putting religion back in public school curricula. Campbell pointed out, “Americans are comfortable talking about religion; they just aren’t given enough opportunity to do it.” 

A number of SOF members contributed their own concerns about the religious divide in America, citing isolated immigrant communities and increasing religious extremism within US prisons. Chertoff acknowledged the challenges, but concluded with a positive message: “The only way we can counter bad speech is with more speech.”

SOF donors will gather in a similar format for three more symposia this summer. Next up is “The Korean Peninsula: Implications for US Foreign Policy.” The program, spanning an opening reception and three morning sessions, August 5-8, will feature preparatory readings, lectures, and moderated discussion from President of The Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) and former Ambassador Joseph DeTrani, and Visiting Scholar at the US-Korea Institute at SAIS of the Johns Hopkins University, Alexandre Mansourov.

All symposia are exclusive to the Society of Fellows. If you are interested in joining, please contact Peter Waanders at 970-544-7912.