About this Course
In this blended learning course, emerging and established religious leaders will study the evolution of First Amendment’s religious freedom principles from the 1940s through the civil rights era and into today. Participants will address contemporary issues that concern the constitutional relationship of religion and government, along with current debates over the meaning of the free exercise of religion. Through careful examination of case law and legal briefs, as well as scholarly analysis, artistic expression and individual leaders’ accounts, students will reflect on the roles that religious groups have played in political life, the role of religion in public schools, clashes between civil rights and religious claims, religious accommodations in the workplace, government funding and faith-based social services, and the recent extension of religious exemptions to closely held corporations. Participants will consider how the challenges and opportunities of the “new religious America” can be framed by First Amendment principles to ensure that religious diversity is a source of strength for the country and not a point of weakness, contention or division. This course stresses that religious leadership in the United States requires a careful understanding of how current laws address basic questions regarding religious expression and practice in public life—questions religious leaders and their communities confront almost daily. The purpose of this course is to introduce a diverse group of students to the challenges that religious and secular leaders face in contemporary America in their attempts to advance religious freedom through the principles of free exercise and non-establishment. Students will gain a firm grounding in the legal doctrine of the First Amendment and will also have the opportunity to dig deeper into many specific areas of interests.
(plus travel & lodging during the on-site seminars in Washington D.C.)