In The News
Hundreds of Turkish soldiers recently crossed the border into Syria to protect the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Ottoman Empire founder Osman I, from attack by the Islamic State. Turkey’s veneration of its Ottoman heritage has contributed to a growing strain of nationalism in Turkish politics, which Jenny White will discuss at the Boisi Center on Wednesday, March 25.
In June 2014, the Islamic State declared the formation of a caliphate. Since then it has both been attracting new members and wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East. On February 18, BC professor Ali Banuazizi will address a Boisi Center lunch audience on the connection between politics and Islam.
Holocaust survivors and dignitaries from around the world recently gathered to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. On February 12, 2015, UVA religion professor Charles Marsh will deliver the 14th annual Prophetic Voices Lecture on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who challenged the Nazification of the German Church and who was ultimately executed for treason against the fascist state.
Responses to the terror attacks in France in early January raise concerns about nationalism and the place for minorities in Europe. Problems associated with individual and group rights and identity are at the heart of Simone Weil's writings; at a Boisi Center lunch on February 11, 2015, Boston College history professor Benjamin Braude will speak about the French intellectual's work, which is especially poignant in today's context.
The world is still mourning the terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store in France in early January. Prompted by the attack on the satirical newspaper, below are some Boisi Center resources that shed light on questions about blasphemy, free speech and the right to offend.
In Spring 2007, we hosted a conference examining "Blasphemy, Free Speech and Journalistic Ethics." First Amendment Center scholar Charles Haynes delivered the keynote address, "The Lively Experiment: Why Religious Freedom Requires the Right to Offend," which was preceded by an interfaith panel of religious leaders speaking about free expression, and a panel of journalists speaking about journalistic ethcs. Resources from this event, including audio and a recap, are available on the event webpage.
In Spring 2007, we also hosted art historian John McCoy for his presentation "Blasphemy Ink: The Danish Mohammed Cartoons and their Fallout." Resources from this event, including a video, a recap, and slides, are available on the event webpage.
Speaking at the annual Catholic Charities gathering in Charlotte, Fr. Larry Snyder discussed his 10 years as president of Catholic Charities USA, including his oversight of the response to Hurricane Katrina. On Wednesday, November 5, Snyder will visit the Boisi Center to discuss the ongoing challenges of Catholic social work.
This past summer Pew Research released a new study on how the increasing polarization in America goes beyond mere politics. On October 23, the Boisi Center is hosting a panel on the challenges of writing thoughtfully about religion in this polarized age. Distinguished panelists include Rod Dreher, Mark Oppenheimer, Sarah Posner and Alan Wolfe.
A coalition of faith leaders recently took to the streets of New York for the People’s Climate March, using religious rhetoric to advocate for action on climate change. On Wednesday, October 1 at the Boisi Center, Cathleen Kaveny will discuss the use of such prophetic rhetoric to achieve change in the public square.
There is great buzz around the release of the iPhone 6. At a Tuesday, September 23, Boisi Center lunch, David Bosworth will consider whether our enhanced devices are actually driving us apart, as he presents on his latest book, The Demise of Virtue in Virtual America: The Moral Origins of the Great Recession.
Escalating U.S. attacks on ISIL requires careful thought about the ethics and the realist geopolitical consequences of intervention. Realism and ethics in U.S. foreign policy were the central themes of this 2009 Boisi Center panel with distinguished scholars Andrew Bacevich, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Rev. J. Bryan Hehir.
After a bloody summer, Israel and Gaza have recently extended their ceasefire agreement. In October 2009, the Boisi Center hosted an informative panel on the Israeli and Palestinian situation. This past spring, the Boisi Center hosted retired IDF colonel Miri Eisin to discuss religious diversity in the Israeli military.
As the May 7 national election approaches, many South Africans are increasingly disenchanted with the perceived levels of corruption by President Jacob Zuma and the A.N.C. This New York Times article explores the discontent in the country two weeks prior to the election.
The 16th general election since India's independence is occuring from April 7 to May 12 - a seven phase process where 815 million people are eligible to vote in the world's largest democracy. This Economist article explores the massive electoral process in India, and how it remains successful despite the considerable challenges present. On February 13, 12:00 p.m., BC professor Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner spoke about "Citizen Claim-Making in Rural India” at the Boisi Center.
The Economist profiles the frontrunner in India's upcoming election for prime minister, Nerendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist. This past February at the Boisi Center, Boston College political science profesor Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner presented on another aspect of India's democracy, citizen claim-making. She tried to isolate those variables that could predict this phenomenon, which is key to a well-functioning democracy in India.
In the lead up to the 118th Boston Marathon, law enforcement plans for extra security as groups and towns along the route plan special events to make this year a celebration. Join us on Tuesday, April 8 for a discussion with Peter Krause on fear, hope, and resilience in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
On March 12, nearly 200 Catholic employers challenged the ACA's requirement that insurance plans cover contraceptives. On Thursday, April 24, the Boisi Center will host a panel of experts in business, law, ethics, and theology to explore the implications of this new law.
In February 2014, Emmy-award winning educator Bill Nye debated best-selling Christian author Ken Ham on creationism and evolution, drawing hundreds of thousands of live online viewers on YouTube, and millions of tweets on Twitter. On March 27 at the Boisi Center, David Cowan will examine the role of communication, technology, and religion in the 21st Century.
South Africa's new political opposition alliance foundered in February 2014, reducing the possibility of a stable opposition emerging to challenge the ruling African National Congress. On March 19 at the Boisi Center, Professor Zine Magubane discussed the challenges facing South Africa in the months following Mandela's passing.
The Catholic Church is entering a "new era," and critics of Pope Francis's teachings on economic injustice fail to "understand reality," said the head of the Council of Cardinals in a recent interview. Join us on February 25 for a robust discussion of "Pope Francis and the Future of the Global Church."
Israel's Finance Ministry announced Wednesday that it would halt funding to ultra-orthodox seminary students who claim an exemption from compulsory military service, in line with a Supreme Court decision from earlier in the week. The Israeli parliament is in the midst of drafting a law wherein male seminary students will no longer be exempt from military service. On February 6, retired Israeli colonel Miri Eisin spoke at the Boisi Center about religious diversity in the Israeli military.
Russell Moore has made headlines of late for backing the Southern Baptist Convention out of the culture war. On April 2, 5:30-7:00 p.m., in Gasson 100, Dr. Moore will deliver the Boisi Center's 13th Annual Prophetic Voices Lecture, and speak about the new role as "The Prophetic Minority" that he envisions for evangelicals.
In a nod to an increasingly diverse U.S. military, the Pentagon recently announced that it would allow some religious garb, hair grooming, and tattoos of a religious nature among service members. For a comparative perspective on religious diversity in a military context, join the Boisi Center on Thursday, February 6, 12:00-1:15 p.m., as retired Israeli colonel Miri Eisin speaks about religious diversity in the Israel Defense Forces.
Japan's plan to sign a nuclear energy agreement with Turkey has prompted concerns about possible nuclear weapons proliferation. On January 30, 2014, Joseph Gerson of the American Friends Service Committee will be speaking at the Boisi Center on the ramifications of such proliferation and efforts by the peace movement to campaign for nuclear disarmament.
Time names Pope Francis the 2013 "person of the year." On February 25, 2014, the Boisi Center will host "Pope Francis and the Global Church: A Year of Reform and Continuity," at which a panel of scholars will take stock of the new pope's first year.
The Wall Street Journal reports that religious-discrimination claims against employers are on the rise, attributing the reason to immigration and a more open discussion of religion, among other things. On November 13, the Boisi Center hosted Religious Diversity and the Common Good, a day-long conference that examined the benefits and tensions that arise in an increasingly diverse polity.
Earlier this year, Bishop Robert McElroy spoke at Boston College about modern challenges to Catholic teachings on war and peace. Looking at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through a Catholic pacifist lens, Bishop McElroy warns that drones and preemptive wars are not defeating evil, but confirming it. On November 6 at the Boisi Center, Drew Christiansen, S.J., continued this conversation with a talk on the transition of Catholic teaching from just war to nonviolence.
In a recent NYT article, a former member of the IRA draws parallels between the violence it perpetrated and recent episodes like the Nairobi Mall Shooting and the atrocities in Syria and Egypt. On October 29, the Boisi Center hosted former Irish president Mary McAleese, who spoke about building bridges between religious communities and her efforts in brokering peace in Ireland.
An October 8 factory fire in Bangladesh, in which at least 10 people died and dozens were injured, raises questions about the obligation of individuals, states, and corporations to improve working conditions in the developing world. On October 2, BC philosophy professor Jonathan Trejo-Mathys discussed political obligation in an increasingly interconnected, international world society.
On October 1, 2013, the Pew Research Center released A Portrait of Jewish Americans. The survey reports that Jewish identity is changing in America, and touches on such issues as Jewish affiliation, intermarriage, and child rearing. On September 24, Boisi Center director and Political Science professor Alan Wolfe spoke about his current book project on Jews in America and the blessings of exile.
Recently passed constitutional amendments in Hungary face strong opposition from critics who claim that the reforms violate EU law and erode the power of the constitutional court. Join us on April 11 for a lunch colloquium on cosmopolitanism and constitutional law with Vlad Perju, Director of the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston College and a tenured Associate Professor at Boston College Law School.
Read The Boston College Chronicle's report on our panel discussion, "The Future of Catholic Periodicals: Faith, Finances, and the Digital Age," co-sponsored by the Church in the 21st Century Center.
The United Nations recently funded an initiative aimed at boosting youth volunteerism with the goal of transforming the energy of the world’s young people into tangible projects to enhance global development. Boston College Junior Brooke Loughrin will discuss her experience as the first U.S. United Nations Youth Delegate during a Boisi Center lunch colloquium on February 6.
Nicholas Kristof, in a New York Times op-ed, encourages President Obama to make poverty a policy priority during his second term. Join the Boisi Center on February 26 at 7:30pm in Higgins 300 for our panel, Poverty and American National Priorities, featuring Eric Gregory, Susan Crawford Sullivan, and William Julius Wilson.
According to a study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, nearly a third of Americans under 30 now say they have no religious affiliation. Susan Jacoby, panelist from the Boston College Sesquicentennial Conference, Religion and the Liberal Aims of Higher Education, writes about religious faith and freedom in America in her new book, The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought. Listen to her discussion with Tom Ashbrook of NPR's On Point.
Patrick J. McCloskey and Joseph Claude Harris, in their New York Times op-ed, argue that Catholic parochial education is in crisis. They cite financial and personnel challenges as primary factors in Catholic school decline. During a Boisi Center lunch colloquium on September 25, 2012, Patricia Weitzel-O'Neill, Executive Director of the Roche Center at Boston College, argued that identifying national standards that address these issues and strengthen institutional identity is an integral component in Catholic school reform.
Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy is the first documentary film to explore the Jewish-American influence in the development of Broadway musicals. Stuart Hecht, Associate Professor of Theater at Boston College, discussed the significance of the Jewish musical heritage at a Boisi Center colloquium on November 14, 2012. Hecht is among the experts interviewed in the PBS documentary.
Broadway Musicals premieres on January 1, 2013, at 9:30pm EST (check local listings).
In an essay featured on Public Discourse, Richard Garnett of Notre Dame Law School argues, "At its fullest, the American model of religious liberty is not a freedom from religion or a freedom of religion; it is a freedom for religion." Join us on Thursday, November 29 for a lecture by Richard Garnett addressing individuals, institutions, and religious freedom. Gregory Kalscheur, S.J., of Boston College will respond.
The New York Times reports that the Obama administration, facing the possibility of losing a second term, accelerated work in the weeks before the election to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures. On November 14, Former CIA Interrogator Glenn Carle gave a lecture on the status of the 'War on Terror'. Click here for video from the Carle's lecture.
According to the National Catholic Reporter, the University of San Diego has canceled a visiting fellowship for British theologian Tina Beattie in response to pressure from financial donors concerned with her public dissent from Catholic teachings. The University's decision illustrates tensions between academic freedom and the commitments of religious universities. Join us on November 8 and 9 for a conference examining the relationship between religion and liberal education.
Barack Obama's re-election hopes hinge more than any previous presidential contender on the Latino vote, according to the Wall Street Journal. Rapid population growth means that Hispanics carry more weight this election than ever before, particularly in some critical battleground states. The great question mark in the campaign's final days is how many Latinos will show up to vote.
Latinos are divided by religion in their preferences in the upcoming presidential election, according to the latest survey by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Three-quarters of Latino Catholics and eight-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Latinos support President Barack Obama's re-election. However, among Latino evangelical Protestants, who account for 16% of all Latino registered voters, just 50% prefer Obama, while 39% support his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
A record 23.7 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center. This is up by more than 4 million, or 22%, since 2008, when 19.5 million Latinos were eligible to vote. How will Latinos affect this year's election outcomes? Join us on Thursday, November 1, 2012 for a panel discussion on Latinos and the 2012 elections.
Do Republicans and Democrats share the same basic anti-terrorism policy? Ritika Singh and Benjamin Wittes, in Commonweal Magazine, discuss the politics of national security and the 2012 presidential election. Join us on Wednesday, November 14, 2012, for a lecture on the war on terror by Glenn Carle, former CIA investigator.
What lies ahead for America's nuns? Sister Mary Hughes, former president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), discusses the role of nuns in the church and in public with NPR's John Donovan. Join us on Thursday, October 18, 2012, for a panel discussion on the role of nuns in American public life.
In March 2012 Turkey’s ruling party passed a major educational reform that critics fear will encourage widespread conservative religious schooling. The controversy invokes broader worries about religion and democracy in Turkey -- the topic of a major conference the Boisi Center hosted earlier that month.
The Supreme Court recently upheld the core components of President Obama’s healthcare reform law, triggering resistance from many religious and political conservatives. In April 2010, Dr. Michael F. Greene, Rev. J. Bryan Hehir and Melissa Rogers discussed the ethics of conscience in the healthcare debate. Watch the video of the event here.
In March and April, colleges and universities across the world celebrated Islam Awareness Week. On Wednesday, April 25, the associate director of the Islamic Civilization and Societies Program at Boston College, Kathleen Bailey, discussed the challenges of establishing the program. Listen to the audio of her talk.
How are Catholic and Mormon presdiential candidates perceived in America today? According to the New York Times, Santorum’s Catholicism was a draw to Evangelicals (March 23, 2012). Now that Santorum has pulled out of the race, will Evangelicals support Romney? On Thursday, April 12, Historian Jill Lepore (Harvard University), writer Rebecca Traister (Salon.com) and Alan Wolfe (Boston College) discussed the role of religion in the presidential primaries and upcoming campaigns.
On March 13th, Alan Wolfe moderated the Inaugural Dean’s Colloquium on Religion and Public Culture. Panelists Kristine Haglund, editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and Stephen Prothero, Boston University professor of religion, discussed the role Mitt Romney's faith plays in the 2012 elections. Watch the video of the event here.
Mexican immigrants working at a New York carwash have turned to a coalition of community organizations for help initiating a citywide campaign for legal wages. On Tuesday, March 20, Vincent Rougeau spoke about the role of Catholic social teaching in the community organizing efforts of immigrant populations. Click here to listen to audio of his talk.
Should religious rules should end at the church door? Tensions similar to those in the United States are also erupting in England, where many Catholic adoption agencies have shut down in the wake of new judicial rulings that would have required them to accept homosexual couples as parents. On Wednesday, March 14, Miroslav Volf spoke about pluralism as a political project.
Rick Santorum recently declared his disagreement with another Catholic presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy. In contrast to Kennedy, Santorum doesn't "believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” On Thursday, March 1, German scholar Christian Polke spoke about how ancient and contemporary societies have tied together political power and religious belief. Listen to an audio recording of Polke's talk.
The Obama administration recently announced new regulations that require employers to provide employee health insurance plans that cover comprehensive reproductive care. Attempts to define appropriate exemptions for religious organizations have been controversial. In the spring 2010 panel, "A Matter of Conscience: Religious Exemptions and the Healthcare Debate," Dr. Michael F. Greene, Rev. J. Bryan Hehir and Melissa Rogers took up the question: How should churches and religious institutions balance respect for personal conscience with professional responsibility?
The House of Representatives recently passed two bills defending the use of religious symbols at military memorials. On Feb. 9, Fr. Richard Erikson and Jonathan Ebel discussed this and other issues at the crossroads of religion and the military as they asked what it means to fight for both God and country.
Citizens in the U.S. and Europe have in recent years tried to prevent many Muslim communities from building or expanding mosques. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating one recent case in California; last year Switzerland banned the construction of minarets. On Thursday, Dec. 1, Boisi Center visiting scholar Gregor Scherzinger discussed the controversy in Switzerland and examined how religious communities ground their claims to religious freedom in a pluralistic, democratic society.
Will Harry Potter, the ‘boy who lived,’ survive among those Christian audiences skeptical of dark magic and witchcraft? Recently, some conservative religious leaders have begun to praise the series' moral framework. On November 16th, Alan Jacobs discussed the impact that Western poets and novelists have had on believers and doubters alike.
Read Alan Jacobs' discussion of J.K. Rowlings' moral compass in First Things.
Is anything authentic in our present-day celebrations of Thanksgiving? In "Peace, Love and Puritanism," David Hall discusses what the Puritans hoped to gain by coming to the New World and what values they sought to practice (New York Times Op-Ed, November 23, 2010). On Tuesday, Oct. 18, David Hall spoke at the Boisi Center about social ethics and practices in Puritan New England.
This month, the Supreme Court hears the case of a Christian schoolteacher fired in a dispute over a disability and church doctrine. In a Christian Science Monitor article, the editors argue that the justices should be careful about allowing government to judge a faith's teachings. On Wednesday, Oct. 12, Denis Lacorne discussed the Puritan and the Enlightenment influences on American religious freedom and the separation of church and state.
In "Sentencing Shift Gives New Leverage to Prosecutors," Richard A. Oppel comments on the new leverage that prosecutors now possess to extract guilty pleas from defendants (New York Times, 25 September 2011). On September 22, David Skeel discussed the work and life of William Stuntz, who argued that changes in criminal justice law have resulted, perversely, in an increase in guilty pleas. Listen to the audio of Skeel's talk.
In a recent Washington Post Op-Ed, Ray Takeyh argues that Iran has added legitimacy to the Green movement in Iran, which is pushing the nation toward a post-authoritarian stage. On Sept. 27, photographer and writer Scott Peterson shared his observations on the mind of Ahmadinejad and how Iran has locked itself into a web of contradictions. Listen to the audio of his talk.
In Dick Cheney's new memoir, In My Time (2011), he writes that the C.I.A.’s interrogation techniques were “safe, legal, and effective.” On Monday, Sept. 12, a former CIA interrogator, a constitutional law professor and a theologian took a fresh look at interrogation methods after the death of bin Laden.
In A Conflict’s Acoustic Shadows Ken Burns recently reflected on the relevance of the American Civil War for us today (New York Times, 4/11/11). On April 28, David Quigley spoke about how the America Civil War framed our understanding of America and what it meant for the rest of the world. Click here to listen to audio of his talk.
How are American women doing today?
Gail Collins discusses the Obama administration's first report on the status of women in America in a recent op-ed: "Girls and Boys Together" (New York Times, 3/2/11). On April 26, scholars from Harvard and Boston College took up the same question.
Everyone agrees that Qaddafi must go, Curt Weldon writes, but no one has a plan and there is no foundation for civil society in Libya (Op-Ed "Time’s Up, Qaddafi" 4/5/11, New York Times). Why is civil society important and why is building it a risk? On April 14, Prof. Yonder Gillihan turned to ancient and medieval sources to explore these questions. Click here to listen to his talk.
Recent research has found that 45% of students show "no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years" ("45% Of Students Don't Learn Much In College" Huffington Post, 01/18/11). W. Robert Connor spoke on Tuesday, April 5 about the crisis that threatens higher education and what can be done about it.
Traumatic Brain Injury has been labeled the "signature injury" of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In a recent 3 part article, Barbara Mannino explores the science, personal, and policy aspects of this injury ("Growing Threat to Soldiers: Traumatic Brain Injury," March 09, 2011, FOXBusiness). On Wed., March 30, Andrea Vicini, S.J., M.D., discussed the ethical questions surrounding the detection of consciousness in vegetative patients. Click here to listen to an audio recording of his talk.
"The approach of elections next month in Nigeria has raised hopes and apprehension in almost equal measure," writes Peter M. Lewis of Johns Hopkins University ("Nigeria: Politics at a Pivotal Moment," AllAfrica.com, 14 March 2011). On Wednesday, March 23, Hauwa Ibrahim spoke about the practical and theoretical challenges to protecting women's rights under Shariah Law in Northern Nigeria. Click here to listen to an audio recording of her talk.
The Reverend Peter J. Gomes, our 6th Annual Prophetic Voices Lecturer, died on March 1 due to complications from a stroke. A Harvard minister, theologian, and author, the Reverend Gomes was "one of America’s most prominent spiritual voices against intolerance" (The New York Times, 3/1/11). Visit the Harvard Memorial Church website to see the memorial service program and listen to the service.
Does casino gambling generate new jobs and state tax revenue? In a 2010 interview on NPR, Boston College Professor Richard McGowan outlined why states are increasingly turning to gambling to make up for budget shortfalls. To learn more about the moral impact of gambling, check out Gambling: Mapping the American Moral Landscape, edited by Alan Wolfe and Erik Owens.
Do we have a "responsibility to protect" the Libyan protesters? In "Act. Now." (Foreign Policy, 2/24/11), Hussein Ibish argues that the world does have a responsibility to protect the Libyans. In the fall of 2010, David Hollenbach, S.J., Mahmood Mamdani, and Alan Wolfe debated the value of this emerging paradigm. Click here for audio, written remarks, and other resources relating to R2P.
A recent article in the New York Times, "Cold Jumps Arctic 'Fence,' Stoking Winter's Fury" (24 January 2011), explores the historic blizzards in the Northeast U.S. and the surprisingly warm weather in northeastern Canada and Greenland. On Wednesday, Feb. 23, Willis Jenkins, professor of social ethics at Yale Divinity School, spoke about the ways in which a Christian ethic can address climate change.
The University in the 21st Century: Thinking about Ethics, Persons, and Discourse - Fr. James F. Keenan
by Fr. James F. Keenan, 2009
Speech given to the Catholic Theological Society of America
Fr. Keenan argues that, in order for the academy and the church to answer the call to solidarity and justice, these institutions must reverse the current trend towards individualism and isolationism.
Author Meets Critics: Damon Linker's The Religious Test
Presidential Roulette - Richard Albert
by Richard Albert 9.29.10
The Huffington Post Op-Ed
In an Op-ed entitled: "Why The President Wins If The Democrats Lose" in The Huffington Post, Richard Albert predicts the a loss for the Democratic party will strengthen President Obama. Albert spoke at the Boisi Center on Nov. 10, 2010.
The Rising Power of the American Dead - Ray D. Madoff
by Ray D. Madoff, 7.6.2010
Los Angeles Times Op-Ed
According to Ray Madoff, professor at Boston College Law School, "Repeal of the estate tax imposes significant costs on the taxpaying public and promotes concentrations of wealth that harm our democracy." Madoff is author of Immortality and the Law. She discussed her new book at the Boisi Center on Tuesday, Oct. 5. You can listen to an audio recording of the talk here.
Humanitarian Intervention and the "Responsibility to Protect"
by Jeffrey Gettleman, 10.3.10
The New York Times
The rapes of nearly 500 women in Africa by an ethnic Hutu rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo raises the question of the role of the US in humanitarian intervention. You can listen to an audio recording of a debate about the "Responsibility to Protect," hosted by the Boisi Center in September 2010.