On April 22, scientists and the public will gather in Washington, D.C., and at satellite locations across the nation for the March for Science. The Earth Day event calls for people of all races, religions, and political perspectives to speak out about the critical role that science plays in government and society—from researching medicine and the environment to supplying the world with food and energy. Though most major religions support environmentalism and caring for the planet, many religious teachings have historically clashed with some of the march’s key issues, including stem cell research, evolution, and vaccines.
7, 2017, Georgetown University and the Pontifical Council for Culture
co-sponsored a day-long conference under the name "Towards a New Market
Economy: Justice, Culture, and the Social Market." The conversation was
exceptionally broad—ranging from the limitations of the market and
globalization's effects on immigrant and low-income rural communities to an
extended examination of copyright law—but the animating theme of the day came
from a keynote delivered in the morning by Michael Sandel, professor of
philosophy at Harvard University.
On January 31, President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the next Supreme Court justice, and this week Gorsuch is undergoing his Senate hearing. As a federal judge in Colorado, Gorsuch has proven to some to be a staunch defender of religious freedom. He sided with Hobby Lobby Stores, which objected to coverage of certain drugs and devices required by the Affordable Care Act contraceptive provisions in their employer-sponsored health insurance plans, and ruled in Yellowbear v. Lampert that a Native American prison inmate should have access to the sweat lodge in the prison yard, emphasizing the importance of the freedom to practice one’s faith while incarcerated.
Since the administration of George W. Bush, the U.S. government has placed consistently greater emphasis on building capacity within federal agencies to engage with religious actors and faith-based communities to achieve policy goals, domestically and abroad. Beginning with the establishment of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2001, this trend extended across the federal system. Today, offices or centers focused on engaging religious communities can be found within multiple departments and agencies including Commerce, Education, Labor, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
On January 21, millions around the world marched to
demand equal rights for minorities and underserved communities and to rebuke
President Donald Trump’s remarks about women. With an estimated four million
marchers in the United States alone, the Women’s Marches were hailed as the largest national protest ever
Despite the large number of attendees, not all women felt included. The march’s
unity principles clearly advocate for “access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and
birth control for all people.” Pro-life activists from New Wave Feminists were removed from the
march’s list of partners after much backlash asserting that pro-life beliefs
entirely contradict feminist beliefs.
On January 27, President Donald Trump issued an executive order barring immigration of nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and refugees from Syria permanently. National and international protests have erupted in objection to what critics are calling a “Muslim ban,” and foreign governments, including affected nations Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Yemen as well as U.S. allies Great Britain, France, Germany, Turkey, Australia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have spoken out against the order. Despite a number of legal challenges to the order, the White House has defended its actions as a matter of national security and has received support from European political leaders such as Nigel Farage and Geert Wilders.
After three months of negotiations, Vatican-mediated peace talks between the two factions battling for political control of Venezuela have ceased. From October to December, the Vatican-brokered peace talks between the opposing parties, but at the end of January, the opposition coalition rejected further mediation and instead planned to begin direct negotiations. This intervention was one in a long history of Vatican involvement in world affairs, especially in Latin America. Most recently, Pope Francis assisted in the reopening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.
In the summer of 2016, the Religious Freedom Project awarded its second annual summer dissertation fellowship to students exploring the sources, development, and consequences of religious freedom. Five fellows from diverse academic disciplines explored the relationship between religious liberty and other fundamental freedoms; its importance for democracy; and/or its role in social and economic development, international diplomacy, and countering violent religious extremism. This week, the Berkley Forum asks them to synthesize and share their most pressing findings.
On November 8, the country elected Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. Challenges like ISIS/violent extremism, the refugee crisis, and religious freedom face the new president and his administration. In looking forward to these challenges, one can recall Secretary of State John Kerry's repeated assertion "religion matters" in negotiating international affairs and connecting people across nations. At a 2016 event on religion and diplomacy at the Newseum, he stated, "We must engage more closely with faith communities around the world, because we need to partner with them to solve global challenges."
On November 17, a panel at Georgetown University will discuss the results of a historic encounter between U.S. Catholic bishops and five Iranian religious leaders regarding, among other topics, nuclear weapons. Though the stockpile is decreasing, there are still an estimated 15,500 nuclear warheads among nine nations worldwide. With recent comments from the Holy See, many believe the Vatican is shifting its stance to press the moral case for a world free of nuclear weapons. Growing fears of a nuclear conflict mean that nuclear proliferation is of paramount importance in foreign policy debates and in religious communities.