UVU Center for Constitutional Studies to discuss religious liberty at annual conference

University Marketing & Communications: Layton Shumway | 801-863-6863 | LShumway@uvu.edu

Written by: Barbara Christiansen | 801-863-8208 | BarbaraC@uvu.edu 

It’s often said that two topics people should not discuss are religion and politics. However, Utah Valley University’s Center for Constitutional Studies will tackle both of those topics in its annual conference on religious liberty. The public is invited to the free event, which will be April 6 in the University’s Classroom Building.

The discourse will be respectful and balanced, according to Rodney K. Smith, the director of the Center for Constitutional Studies.

“I want us to always make sure we have a very civil, respectful discussion about the tensions that exist in whatever area we are discussing,” he said. “I am about the pursuit of truth. People need to hear all the views.”

The day-long event will include three major issues: religious exemptions and equality; religion in the public schools, revisiting the decision about prayer in public schools; and political engagement by religious leaders and churches.

In addition, there will be a VIP luncheon featuring an address by Douglas Laycock, the Robert E. Scott Distinguished Professor of Law and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He is known for defending the liberty of all sides in America’s culture wars.

Winners of a student essay contest will present their creations and respond to question by Smith and G. Kevin Jones.

“That is always a fun part of the conferences,” Smith said.

In the session on religious exemptions and equality, Frederick Mark Gedicks, Richard B. Katskee, Robin Fretwell Wilson and Gene Schaerr will address conflicts such as the recent case involving Hobby Lobby, which refused to fund contraception for its employees, based on the owners’ religious beliefs.

“We have a conflict,” Smith said. “Do we create an exemption or do we consider the third party rights? We have got really good people who will address the issues in a respectful and balanced way.”

A panel of three will discuss religion in the public schools, revisiting the case 55 years ago regarding prayer in public schools. Panelists are Joanne C. Brant, William P. Marshall and Eimi Priddis.

Smith and Patrick A. Shea, a Salt Lake City attorney, will address political engagement by religious leaders and churches.

Organizers have planned time for questions and answers following each panel discussion.

“I think this is going to be wonderful,” Smith said “We are going to hit on all the major issues in a balanced way.”

The Center for Constitutional Studies has an annual event in the fall in celebration of Constitution Week and a conference on religious liberty issues each spring.

Additional information is available at www.uvu.edu/ccs/events/2017_religiousliberty.html.

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