Religious Freedom: Why Now? Defending an Embattled Human Right

This event celebrated the rollout of a new book, Religious Freedom: Why Now? Defending an Embattled Human Right, authored by RFP Associate Director Timothy Shah, under the auspices of the Witherspoon Institute’s Task Force on International Religious Freedom, chaired by RFP Director Thomas Farr. The event was co-sponsored by the Religious Freedom Project and the Witherspoon Institute. The keynote address was delivered by Robert P. George of Princeton University. Panels featured a wide range of participants, including noted Muslim scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf.
Why now? Religious freedom is under sustained pressure today around the world. In some places, it is fair to say that religious freedom is under siege. The publication of Religious Freedom: Why Now? is a response to that sobering fact. Although scant attention is paid by governments, the academy, or the media, the implications of this crisis—and we contend that it is a crisis—are quite serious. A worldwide erosion of religious freedom is causing large-scale human suffering, grave injustice, and significant threats to international peace and security.

For the last three years, the Witherspoon Institute’s Task Force on International Religious Freedom – under Tom Farr’s chairmanship -- has examined the various dimensions of the challenge faced by religious freedom, and has deliberated on the most effective policy responses by the United States and other governments around the world. In May 2011, the Witherspoon Institute convened an unprecedented interdisciplinary meeting in Princeton, New Jersey of more than thirty experts on the subject, from the fields of psychology, sociology, law, philosophy, theology, political science, and international relations. They included academics, policy analysts, and journalists, as well as advocates and adherents from a variety of religious traditions. The result was a focused discussion over two days of the basis of religious freedom, its present condition, and the prospects for its future.

Religious Freedom: Why Now? is the Task Force’s considered statement on these matters. Drafted by RFP Associate Director Timothy Samuel Shah, with contributions from the Witherspoon Institute’s Matthew J. Franck and the members of the Task Force, it is informed by insights from all these academic disciplines and religious traditions.

A special event following the lecture brought keynoter Robert P. George, Princeton University’s McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence together with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, co-founder of Zaytuna College, the first accredited Muslim institution of higher learning in the United States. The two discussed the roots of religious freedom in Islam and critical religious freedom issues facing Muslims today. An RFP publication on this special event can be found here.

Event Schedule
11:45am-12:15pm Lunch

12:15-1:30pm Keynote Lecture
Speaker: Robert P. George

1:45 - 3:15pm Panel 1: Why Religious Freedom? The Challenge of Grounding Religious Liberty
Panelists: William A. Galston, Wilfred M. McClay, Timothy S. Shah, and Amy Sullivan

3:30-5:00pm Panel 2: Why Now? The Urgency of Advancing Religious Liberty in the Muslim World
Panelists: Thomas F. Farr, Allen Hertzke, Ed Husain, and Hamza Yusuf

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