We launched the FORIS Project at the Washington Hebrew Congregation to explore the distinct nature and value of institutional religious freedom and the growing threats faith communities face in countries as diverse as China, Turkey, Egypt, and the United States.
The Freedom of Religious Institutions in Society (FORIS) Project is a pathbreaking, multi-country initiative funded by the John Templeton Foundation to examine the meaning and impact of institutional religious freedom and promote its findings among policymakers, scholars, and journalists around the world. Timothy Shah, RFI’s Vice President for Strategy and International Research, is the FORIS Project Architect and Principal Investigator.
After RFI President Thomas Farr gave introductory remarks, Timothy Shah, RFI Vice President for Strategy and International Research introduced the keynote, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Chabad Jewish Community Center of Poway, California. Concluding a powerful address on his experiences and his witness as a Jewish Rabbi, Goldstein handed the floor to Mark Rienzi, President of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Professor at Catholic University of America. Rienzi gave an inspiring presentation about his work defending religious freedom for all in the courts.
The keynote addresses were followed by a lively and informative panel discussion of FORIS scholars from diverse disciplines, covering various topics related to the freedom of religious institutions around the world.
(A light lunch buffet will be available)
12:00pm – Introductory Remarks
Thomas Farr, President, Religious Freedom Institute (RFI)
Timothy Shah, Vice President for Strategy and International Research, RFI
12:15pm – Keynote Address
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Chabad Jewish Community Center of Poway, California
12:45pm – Remarks
Mark Rienzi, President, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; Professor, The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law
1:00pm - Panel Discussion
Timothy Shah (moderator)
Richard Garnett, University of Notre Dame
Stanley Carlson-Thies, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance
Fenggang Yang, Purdue University
Ahmet Kuru, San Diego State University
Elizabeth Prodromou, Tufts University
2:15pm – Audience Q/A
2:30pm – Concluding Remarks
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein is the founder and rabbi at Chabad of Poway, California, a Jewish community and outreach center founded in 1984, which includes a synagogue, preschool, afternoon Hebrew school, senior center, library, Friendship Circle, and more. He attended United Lubavitch Yeshivah (1970-1978) and Rabbinical College of America (1980-1983) and received his rabbinic ordination from the Central Lubavitch Yeshivah in New York in 1984. He is the Jewish chaplain for the Poway Sheriff’s Department and is involved in several outreach initiatives in the wider San Diego area. Rabbi Goldstein has spoken in a variety of venues, including at the White House “National Day of Prayer,” and shares a powerful, actionable message about the virtue of goodness and kindness, light and joy in the face of hate and all forms of evil and darkness. He lives in Poway with his wife of 33 years, Devorie, enjoying their 6 children and 10 grandchildren.
Mark Rienzi is President of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and joined the Becket team in 2011. He splits his time as Professor at The Catholic University of America (CUA), Columbus School of Law, and as Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. He teaches constitutional law, religious liberty, torts, and evidence. He has been voted Teacher of the Year three years in a row by the Law School’s Student Bar Association. Rienzi is also the Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at CUA’s Columbus School of Law
Rienzi has broad experience litigating First Amendment religious exercise and free speech cases. He has represented the winning parties in a variety of Supreme Court First Amendment cases including Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters, Wheaton College, and Holt. In January 2014, Rienzi argued before the Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley, a First Amendment challenge to a Massachusetts speech restriction outside of abortion clinics. The Justices ruled in favor of his clients 9-0. Rienzi also led a successful eight-year litigation battle against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s effort to force religious pharmacists to distribute the morning-after and week-after pills.
Richard W. Garnett
Richard W. Garnett is Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the University of Notre Dame. He teaches and writes about the freedoms of speech, association, and religion and constitutional law more generally. Garnett is a leading authority on questions and debates regarding the role of religious believers and beliefs in politics and society. He has published widely on these matters and is the author of dozens of law-review articles and book chapters. Garnett is regularly invited to share analysis and commentary in national print and broadcast media and contributes to several blogs, including Mirror of Justice and PrawfsBlawg.
Garnett is the founding director of Notre Dame Law School’s Program on Church, State, and Society, an interdisciplinary project that focuses on the role of religious institutions, communities, and authorities in the social order. He served on the Notre Dame Task Force on Catholic Education, is a Fellow of the University’s Institute for Educational Initiatives, and consults regularly with the Alliance for Catholic Education.
Garnett clerked for the late Chief Justice of the United States, William H. Rehnquist, during the Court’s 1996 term.
Stanley Carlson-Thies is the Founder and Senior Director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance of the Center for Public Justice. He convenes the Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom, a multi-faith alliance of social-service, education, and religious freedom organizations that advocates for the religious freedom of faith-based organizations to Congress and the federal government. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Canadian think tank Cardus. With the late Stephen V. Monsma, he co-authored Free to Serve: Protecting the Religious Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations (Brazos Press, 2015).
From 2009-2010 Carlson-Thies served on a task force of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, helping to draft recommendations on how to clarify the church-state rules that apply to federal funding of social-service providers. He served with the White House Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives from its inception in February 2001 until mid-May 2002. He assisted with writing “Unlevel Playing Field: Barriers to Participation by Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Federal Social Service Programs,” a report released by the White House in August 2001, and “Rallying the Armies of Compassion,” the initial blueprint for President George W. Bush’s faith and community agenda.
Fenggang Yang is Professor of Sociology and the founding Director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. He is the founding editor of the Review of Religion and Chinese Society. He has been elected and served as the President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (2014-15) and the first President of the East Asian Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (2018-2020). His research focuses on the sociology of religion, religious change in China, and immigrant religion in the United States.
Yang is the author of Atlas of Religion in China: Social and Geographical Contexts (2018), Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule (2012), and Chinese Christians in America: Conversion, Assimilation, and Adhesive Identities (1999), and the co-editor of more than ten books. Among his numerous journal articles, two won distinguished article awards. He has given many invited lectures and keynote presentations at major universities and professional associations in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. His media interviews have been featured in National Public Radio, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Time, The Economist, CNN, and BBC, among others.
Ahmet T. Kuru
Ahmet T. Kuru is a professor of political science and the director of the Center for Islamic and Arabic Studies at San Diego State University. He was a postdoctoral scholar and assistant director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion at Columbia University. Kuru is the author of Secularism and State Policies toward Religion: The United States, France, and Turkey (Cambridge University Press), which received the book award of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. He is also the co-editor (with Alfred Stepan) of Democracy, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey (Columbia University Press). Kuru’s articles have appeared in various journals including World Politics, Comparative Politics, and Political Science Quarterly. His new book, Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment: A Global and Historical Comparison will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2019. Kuru’s works have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, and Turkish.
Elizabeth H. Prodromou
Elizabeth H. Prodomou is visiting associate professor of conflict resolution at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she directs the Initiative on Religion, Law, and Diplomacy. She is a non-resident senior fellow and co-chair of the Working Group on Christians and Religious Pluralism, at the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, and is also non-resident fellow at The Hedayah International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism.
Prodromou served as vice chair and commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (2004-2012) and was a member of the U.S. Secretary of State’s Religion & Foreign Policy Working Group (2011-2015). Her research interests focus on geopolitics and religion, with particular focus on the intersection of religion, democracy, and security in the Middle East and Southeastern Europe. Her current research project focuses on Orthodox Christianity and geopolitics, as well as on religion and migration in Greece.
Timothy S. Shah
Timothy S. Shah serves as Vice President for Strategy and International Research and the Director of the South and Southeast Asia Action Team of the Religious Freedom Institute. He is based in Bangalore, India, and serves as non-resident Research Professor of Government at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion. Until mid-2018, he served as Director for International Research at the Religious Freedom Research Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
Shah is author and editor of numerous books, including, Even if There is No God: Hugo Grotius and the Secular Foundations of Modern Political Liberalism (Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2019); Religious Freedom: Why Now? Defending an Embattled Human Right (Witherspoon Institute, 2012); and, with Monica Duffy Toft and Daniel Philpott, God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics (W.W. Norton and Company, 2011). His articles on religion, religious freedom, and global politics, in history and in the contemporary world, have appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Journal of Law and Religion, the Journal of Democracy, the Review of Politics, Fides et Historia, and elsewhere. More