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Participants Sought for Dialogue on Religion and the Academy

NCDD member Nancy Thomas sent us a call for participants for a dialogue project on religion in the academy. The origins of this project lie in a meeting convened last July by the Society for Values in Higher Education (SVHE) and the Johnson Foundation. They invited scholars from both public and private colleges and universities and who represented diverse disciplines, geographic regions, and faith perspectives to come together at the historic Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin. The purpose of this gathering, entitled Religion and Public Life: Engaging Higher Education, was to discuss growing concerns over the intersection between religion and public life and higher education’s response to the concerns. It was a wild ride and a sometimes difficult dialogue, but eventually they concluded that the issues raised at Wingspread call for study, dialogue, critique, and action. The academy must examine how and what it teaches about religion; how welcoming it is to students’ diverse religious views and spiritual interests; and how it will factor religion into its educational programs and initiatives to strengthen deliberative democracy, all the while preserving standards of intellectual inquiry, public reason, and academic freedom.

As a result of this work, the group crafted a draft Wingspread Declaration, which is available on the SVHE website (www.svhe.org). They are hoping that people will download the declaration, convene campus groups (particularly faculty) to talk about it, and submit comments on it. There is also a forum space on the website for public comments. Also available at SVHE’s website is a framing paper, entitled A More Perfect Union and additional discussion questions for campus conversations. All three documents are available in PDF form. And campuses that would like to engage these issues broadly and need a jump start can contact Nancy at democracyproject@aol.com.

Amy Lang
Amy Lang is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia. She wrote her dissertation on British Columbia’s groundbreaking Citizens’ Assembly process, and is currently doing follow-up research on the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly.

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