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Free Speech and Religion

Inclusive America Project Report Launch – “Pluralism in Peril: Challenges to an American Ideal”

Join us for the launch of a new report by the Inclusive America Project, “Pluralism in Peril: Challenges to an American Ideal.”

Watch the discussion here:

    On February 7, the eve of the 66th National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, the Aspen Institute Justice & Society Program (JSP) will release a new report – Pluralism in Peril – on how our nation can maintain its historical commitment to embracing people of all faith backgrounds against a backdrop of polarization. Religious pluralism may be under threat, but effective tools and strategies are available to defenders of this core American value.

    “Religious tolerance is a concept as old as our nation,” notes JSP executive director Meryl Chertoff. “It’s right there in the First Amendment’s guarantees of free exercise and non-establishment, and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both embraced and wrote about it. There’s a straight line from there to today’s headlines, including the original Trump travel ban—essentially a religious test—and publicly questioning whether members of some faiths can be loyal Americans.”

    Pluralism in Peril’s findings and recommendations include:

    • Relationships are key to building a more tolerant and inclusive United States, and they must be built at every level, from individuals and small communities to cities and national organizations
    • Youth-serving organizations (such as the Y, Boys and Girls Clubs, and 4-H) should encourage basic religious literacy to reduce suspicion and marginalization of religious minorities
    • Right-wing and religious extremists employ similar recruitment methods, and thus similar tactics can be used to combat both
    • Community engagement and countering violent extremism are on a continuum, and an enforcement-only approach is doomed to fail
    • Efforts to build a more inclusive society will require sustained investment from the philanthropic sector, as religious organizations or the government cannot do it alone
    Publication of this report could not be more timely. According to the Anti-Defamation League, 2017 was a big year for extremist violence in the US, with the number of murders by white supremacists double what it was the prior year. Disturbing incidents include the slaying of a peaceful counter-demonstrator, Heather Heyer, during the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the vehicular attack by an ISIS-inspired terrorist in New York City. Homegrown extremist violence is on the rise, and extremist recruitment flourishes online.

    Countering these alarming trends requires more than simply asking Americans to love each other. Pluralism in Peril offers guidance to community and interfaith leaders, youth-serving organizations, philanthropists, and state and local officials on specific action steps to build a more resilient, trust-based environment that fully incorporates American religious minorities. Essays explore ways to increase basic religious literacy, promote allyship and community resilience, and build bridges between youth of different faith traditions.

    Pluralism in Peril’s authors come from across the political spectrum and include former government officials, religious leaders, interfaith activists, and scholars. While they do not agree on everything, they all insist that America’s religious diversity keeps us strong and that an attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths.

    The launch will include a discussion with some of the contributing authors as well as by leading advocates in the field. Eric Motley (Aspen Institute) and Meryl Chertoff (Aspen Institute) will provide opening remarks. They will be followed by a panel discussion with Farhan Latif (El-Hibri Foundation), Chris Seiple (Institute for Global Engagement), and George Selim (Anti-Defamation League), moderated by Zeenat Rahman (Aspen Institute). Rabbi David Saperstein (Religious Action Center). 

    Event information
    Wed Feb 7, 2018
    10:00am - 11:30am EDT
    Smith Conference Room, The Aspen Institute
    2300 N Street NW
    Washington, DC