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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

How Christian is American Politics?

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Symposium Recap

This spring the Boisi Center was pleased to continue its Symposia on Religion and Politics. The student group, which first convened in the fall, discussed Christian conservatism as well as current issues at the crossroads of religion and politics. In February the Boisi Center launched a second, parallel symposium for Boston College faculty, alumni and staff. Thirteen members from backgrounds as diverse as art, nursing and law met over the course of the spring semester to discuss readings from important moments in American political history, including texts by Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. Facilitated by Boisi Center graduate research assistant (and Ph.D. candidate in political theory) Brenna McMahon, both symposia were framed by the question: How Christian is American politics?
BC senior Morgan Crank led the first discussion of the student session. Reading selections from the writings of Pat Robertson and Antonin Scalia, the group wrestled with how to balance respect for different religious views with toleration of different claims of truth. In the second session, Amanda Davis (visiting from Wellesley College) led the group as it explored how the Supreme Court tried to reconcile tension between freedom of religion and therule of law in the 1990 peyote case, Employment Division v. Smith. Senior Danielle Carder led the discussion about marriage, in which the group asked: what interests does the state have in restricting marriage to one man and one woman? In the final session, led by senior Kara McBride, the group read case law relating to abortion and assisted suicide.
Meeting over breakfast over the course of five Fridays, the faculty, staff, and alumni symposium began the spring session with the question: What is dialogue? At the second meeting, led by Rod Williams, the group explored the grounds for freedom of religion in the Declaration of Independence. On April 15th, apropos of the sesquicentennial of the America Civil War, Paul Kelley asked the group to consider the religious aspects of the war. Participants also debated the grounds for the decision on the 1879 polygamy case, Reynolds v. U.S. Inspired by texts from the mid-twentieth century, Andrea Frank opened up the fourth conversation with the question: what is the conscience? In the final session, led by Michael Smith, the group discussed Christian conservatism in America. It was a terrific end to a new tradition of ongoing symposia at the Boisi Center. To participate next year, visit our web site before the fall term begins: bc.edu/boisi.