Acton Institute scholars at The Henry Symposium on Religion and Public Life
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Acton Institute scholars at The Henry Symposium on Religion and Public Life

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Scholars from the Acton Institute will be speaking at The Henry Symposium on Religion and Public Life. The Symposium will be held April 27th – 29th, 2017 at the Prince Conference Center on the campus of Calvin College.


On Friday April 28th from 8:15 AM to 10:00 AM Dr. Andrew McGinnis and Dylan Pahman will both be presenting papers on the panel Blurring at the Boundaries? Lines Between the Spheres in 19th Century Presbyterian and Reformed Social Thought. Dr. McGinnis’s paper is titled, “Spiritual Principle or Social Practice? The Church and the Social Question among Early 20th Century Presbyterians.” Mr. Pahman’s paper is titled, “Toward a Kuyperian Ethic of Public Life: On the Spheres of Ethics and State.”


Later Friday afternoon from 4:15 PM to 5:45 PM Rev. Robert Sirico will be participating in a roundtable discussion on How Did Charitable Choice and the Faith-Based Initiative Become Mainstream? Or didn’t They?


Saturday April 29th from 11:00 AM to 12:45 PM Dr. Jordan Ballor will be presenting a paper on the panel Christianity and Classical Political Economy. His paper is titled, “Fountainheads of Fusionism? The Relationship between Edmund Burke and Adam Smith Revisited.”


Attendance at the symposium is open to anyone interested in the intersection of religion and public life. Register on-line here.


A number of panels are also free and open to the public:


Center for Public Justice annual Kuyper Lecture

Rediscovering Sphere Sovereignty in the Age of Trump by Charles Glenn (professor emeritus of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Boston University). Glenn will trace parallels between the current political confusion and the period when Kuyper articulated sphere sovereignty as the basis for religious freedom, and suggest that this principle offers a framework for structuring school choice and reform efforts today, applying this to the role of Islamic schools in the US as an antidote to cultural alienation and jihadist violence.

Thursday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Prince Conference Center Great Hall on Calvin College campus


Persuasion in a Polarized Polis: Opportunities (and Pitfalls) for Christian Public Intellectuals

What are the prospects for persuasion in a polarized political climate?  As we retreat into like-minded enclaves and shout at “the other” from the comfort of our echo chambers, are we diminishing the space for reasoned public debate?  As Christianity is increasingly associated with intolerance in the public imagination (and some Christians therefore are once again hunkering down in worn out culture-war bunkers), how might we re-imagine Christian contributions to public debate that are winsome and persuasive?  Panelists include Doug Sikkema (Comment magazine), Brian Dijkema (Cardus), John Inazu (Washington University St. Louis), Gracy Olmstead (The Federalist), and James K.A. Smith (Calvin College)

Friday, April 28 at 2:00 pm in the Prince Conference Center Willow Room


How Did Charitable Choice and the Faith-Based Initiative Become Mainstream? Or Didn’t They?

Do charitable choice principles and the faith-based initiative (in existence since the George W. Bush administration) represent an enduring and broad consensus about church-state relations in the U.S. as an exception to the rule of constant battles? Or were these two decades of relative peace concerning the terms of government funding of faith-based organizations simply a temporary reprieve on a persistent battlefield? Will the consensus dissolve amid rising polarization over more government vs. less government or religious freedom vs. discrimination? Discussants will include Stanley Carlson-Thies (Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance), Carl Esbeck (University of Missouri), Douglas Koopman (Calvin College/Council for Christian Colleges and Universities), and David Ryden (Hope College).

Friday, April 28 at 4:15 pm in the Prince Conference Center Maple Room


Religious Liberty and LGBT Rights: The Merits of “Fairness for All”

In early 2015, efforts to pass a state Religious Freedom Referendum Act in Indiana led to heated charges that religious freedom is merely a cover for anti-gay discrimination, extensive boycott threats, and eventually to a weakening of the measure. At around the same time, with little controversy, Utah adopted legislation (called the “fairness for all” approach) designed simultaneously to protect religious freedom and gay rights, following extensive discussions between gay groups and the Latter Day Saints church. This panel will explore whether a “fairness for all” approach is possible at the federal level.  Participants include Carl Esbeck (University of Missouri), Greg Baylor (Alliance Defending Freedom), Robin Fretwell Wilson (University of Illinois College of Law), and Shapri LoMaglio (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities).

Saturday, April 29 at 8:45 am in the Prince Conference Center Willow East Room

Dan Hugger

Dan Hugger is Librarian and Research Associate at the Acton Institute.