Aspen Institute Justice & Society Program Releases Recommendations on Confronting Religious Intolerance

February 7, 2018

The report – Pluralism in Peril – discusses how the US can maintain its historical commitment to embracing people of all faith backgrounds against a backdrop of polarization

Meryl Chertoff
Executive Director, Justice & Society Program  | 202-736-5849

Washington DC, February 7, 2018 — Aspen Institute Justice & Society Program (JSP) has released a report – Pluralism in Peril – on how the US can maintain its historical commitment to embracing people of all faith backgrounds against a backdrop of polarization. Religious pluralism may be under threat, but the report outlines effective tools and strategies to defenders of this core American value.

The report, Pluralism in Peril, can be accessed here:

“Religious tolerance is a foundational value for this country,” said Meryl Chertoff, Executive Director of JSP. “From President Trump’s travel ban – essentially a religious test – to Nazis marching in our streets, religious tolerance is under attack. Countering this trend requires more than just asking Americans to love each other. This report gives guidance on building a more resilient, trust-based environment that fully incorporates American religious minorities.”

Pluralism in Peril’s 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 linked, 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

Essay authors include J.M. Berger, Associate Fellow at the International Center for Counter-terrorism; Brie Loskota, Executive Director of the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture; Sarah Morgenthau, Managing Director at Nardello & Co.; Eboo Patel, Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core; and George Selim, Senior Vice President of Programs at the Anti-Defamation League. The report authors explore ways to increase basic religious literacy, promote allyship and community resilience, and build bridges between youth of different faith traditions. 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 Justice & Society Program has convened individuals from diverse backgrounds for over four decades to discuss the meaning of justice and how a just society ought to balance fundamental rights with the exigencies of public policy in order to meet contemporary social challenges and strengthen the rule of law. The annual Justice and Society Seminar, held in Aspen and co-founded by the late Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, continues to be led by preeminent judges and law professors. Through our public programming component—which includes the Sandra Day O’Connor Conversation in Aspen, periodic roundtables at the Aspen Institute’s Washington office, and presentations by leading jurists—we bring to the table public officials, established and emerging opinion leaders, and public interest advocates to share their perspectives in a neutral and balanced forum. Our goal is to foster civil and respectful dialogue, seek compromise, and develop strategies for positive change. Justice and Society Program conversations pose open-ended questions, elevate the public discourse, and enable participants to find common ground. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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