Does religious freedom help societies flourish? Does the freedom of religious individuals and institutions to put their faith into practice make a difference to the economic and political well-being of the world's people, especially the very poorest? As legal controversy swirls around religious freedom in America and Europe with the Obamacare contraception mandate and battles over gay marriage, the broader social dimensions of religious freedom are often forgotten. A recent Pew Forum report showed that 75 percent of people in the world live in nations where religious liberty is severely restricted. Those nations are highly vulnerable to extremism, social discord, poverty, and corruption.
Rick Warren, best-selling author and founding pastor of Saddleback Church, discussed these and other topics in a wide-ranging conversation with Timothy Shah, associate director of the Religious Freedom Project. Pastor Rick is a leading advocate on issues like poverty, HIV/AIDS, and education, and spoke about faith-based solutions to pressing challenges at home and abroad, and the role of religious freedom in advancing those solutions.
A special event following the lecture brought Pastor Rick Warren together with Robert P. George, Princeton University’s McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, and Professor John DiIulio, Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania. The three explored how religious freedom should be understood today and what place religious freedom should have in American foreign policy. An RFP publication on this special event can be found here.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church, a non-denominational California megachurch, and is a leading evangelical author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life (2002). Warren has staked out positions and supported programs that address a range of public policy issues, including poverty, education, and HIV/AIDS, both nationally and internationally. During the 2008 presidential election, he hosted candidates senators Barack Obama and John McCain at a public forum at Saddleback Church; he subsequently gave the invocation at President Obama's inauguration in January 2009. TIME and U.S. News & World Report have recognized Warren as one of the most influential Christian leaders in the United States.
Timothy Samuel Shah is associate director of the Religious
Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World
Affairs and visiting assistant professor in the Government Department,
Georgetown University. He is a political scientist specializing in the relationship
between religion and political freedom in theory, history, and contemporary
practice. Shah is author, with Monica Duffy Toft and Daniel Philpott, of God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics (W.W. Norton, 2011) and is editor of an Oxford University Press series on “Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in the Global South” that has so far generated three volumes. His articles on religion and global politics have appeared in Foreign Affairs,
Foreign Policy, the Journal of Democracy, the Review of Politics, and elsewhere.