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Faith and Arms in a Democratic Society

Over the last several years the role of religion in the armed forces has become increasingly contentious in ways that implicate both the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment. The resulting environment has been challenging for chaplains, commanders, and policymakers who are charged with providing spiritual and religious support in intentionally pluralistic communities. Much of the current controversy is tied, in one way or another, to the growth of the Evangelical community within the armed forces. Other issues relate to the pastoral needs of faith groups such as Islam, Sikhism, Wicca, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The result has been to turn what should be a source of spiritual support and a constructive component of national defense personnel policy into a series of challenges and, at times, divisive litigation. The program will explore these issues in a setting that facilitates mutual understanding and respect.

The program will be open to the public and we expect that members of the Law and Divinity School communities as well as members of the armed forces will attend. Members of the media may also attend, although our ground rules will be that participants may speak off the record or not for attribution if they wish. Program readings will be available in advance; these will form the basis for panel discussions. The program is not intended to reach any conclusions or to frame recommendations. We will, however, prepare a summary report so that participants, our funders, and others with an interest will have something to refer to for reflection and possible future activities.

Conference schedule