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Recent Events

Over the past three semesters, the RPLP has hosted a number of esteemed scholars to discuss the most important issues related to religion and public life.

Religion in the News

October 24, 2016

Two weeks before the 2016 presidential election, the RPLP hosted three diverse perspectives to discuss the role of religion during the campaign season, and in the news more broadly. The panelists represented three styles of journalism: print, television, and new media. Diane Winston, faculty at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, was formerly a journalist for the Raleigh News and Observer, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Baltimore Sun. Khambrel Marshall has had numerous roles in television journalism, including sports reporter, news anchor, and executive producer; today he hosts "Houston Newsmakers" on KPRC 2. Patton Dodd is currently executive director of media and communications for the H.E. Butt Family Foundation, and he has contributed to numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Slate, and the Financial Times.  

Islam and Public Life: Addressing Stigmas and Stereotypes

September 15, 2016
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Islam and Public LifeDo American Muslims face discrimination? How are Muslims contributing to US politics? What kind of stereotypes do American Muslim women face? Panelists addressed these and other questions in a timely public conversation hosted by the RPLP, with support from Rice University's Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance. Pamela Prickett, RPLP postdoctoral fellow, moderated the discussion among the three diverse panelists: Imam Wazir Ali, Masjid Warithud-Deen Mohammed and Masjid Al-Qur'an; Craig Considine, lecturer in the department of sociology at Rice; and Hasna Maznavi, founder and president of the Women's Mosque of America.

Religion and the Law

April 7, 2016

The final event of the semester was "Religion and the Law," cosponsored with Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Each panelist presented several cases that they believed exemplified the intersection of religion with the law. Betsy Barre, adjunct assistant professor of religion at Rice University, cited Hobby Lobby v. Burwell. SpearIt, associate professor of law at Thurgood Marshall School of Law, focused on the issues of same-sex marriage and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Dru Stevenson, professor of law at South Texas College of Law, discussed government funding of religious groups and burdensome local regulations, i.e. zoning and permits. The speakers presented a diversity of cases and legal issues, which led to a comprehensive discussion of the definition of religion in the law, the protection of religious liberties alongside other liberties, and other ways in which religion enters the legal sphere.

From Healers to Administrators?: Religion and Medicine in the 21st Century

March 7, 2016
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In early March 2016 the Religion and Public Life Program organized a Series on Religion and Medicine, which included the March 7th panel, "From Healers to Administrators?: Religion and Medicine in the 21st Century." Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, University of Chicago Medical School, and Rabbi Samuel Karff, Congregation Beth Israel, joined Elaine Howard Ecklund for a conversation on the ways in which religion and spirituality interact with modern medicine. Later that day RPLP sponsored a grand rounds at Houston Methodist Hospital in which Dr. Sulmasy spoke about "Lessons from a Patient named Fred." Medical professionals attend grand rounds like this one in order to receive continuing medical education credits. In addition to these programs, the RPLP organized a "Religion and Public Mental Health" workshop on March 3rd in order to address the role of religious organizations in mental healthcare. Speakers were Dr. Warren Kinghorn, Duke University School of Medicine, and Pastor Juanita Rasmus, St. John's Downtown Houston.

The Black Church and Politics

February 1, 2016
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The Black Church and PoliticsOn February 1, 2016 the Religion and Public Life Program hosted a lively panel discussion. Titled "The Black Church and Politics," this event covered a wide range of topics, from political leaders' involvement in churches to the Black Lives Matter movement to the defeat of Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in 2015. All panelists agreed that the "Black church" is extremely diverse theologically and in other ways. As one of the panelists expressed, "it is not a monolithic reality." RPLP director Elaine Howard Ecklund and doctoral candidate Cleve V. Tinsley IV moderated the discussion, which featured diverse viewpoints from Marcus D. Cosby, senior pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church; Korie Edwards, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University; and Omar McRoberts, associate professor of sociology at University of Chicago.

A Global Lab: Religion among Scientists in International Context

December 3, 2015
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After five years of data collection, the Religion and Public Life Program organized this conference in order to present data from the Religion among Scientists in International Context project. Entitled “A Global Lab: Religion among Scientists in International Context,” the conference included a plenary session followed by two concurrent breakout sessions. During the plenary session, Elaine Howard Ecklund provided key findings from the study followed by feedback from a group of panelists with expertise in the international contexts examined by the study. Members of the panel included Fenggang Yang, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University; Chantal Saint-Blancat, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Padova (Italy); and David Voas, Deputy Director and Professor of Population Studies at the University of Essex (U.K.). The first breakout session, “New Perspectives and Places in the Science and Religion Dialogue,” was led by former Rice Postdoctoral Fellow Brandon Vaidyanathan. This session took an in-depth look at the findings from countries outside the U.S. and Western Europe, including Turkey, India, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. A formal response was provided by Alper Bilgili, Lecturer in Sociology at Süleyman Şah Üniversitesi (Turkey). The second breakout session, entitled “Tales from the Field,” was led by Co-PI Kirstin Matthews and Postdoctoral Fellow David Johnson. This session looked particularly at the challenges of conducting a global study on science and religion, as Matthews and Johnson shared valuable insights to researchers interested in conducting cross-national research. Helen Rose Ebaugh, Sociology Professor Emeritus at University of Houston, provided a formal response. The conference drew a diverse group of scholars, including RASIC advisory board members, scientists, sociologists, religion scholars, and members of local and national media.

Religion and Global Poverty

October 29, 2015
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The Religion and Public Life Program hosted "Religion and Global Poverty" on October 29, 2015. RPLP director Elaine Howard Ecklund highlighted the importance of research in understanding the role of religion in eradicating poverty. She emphasized that solutions would be better informed with the power of research. Panelists included Elias Bongmba, professor of religion at Rice University; Evelyn Bush , associate professor of sociology at Fordham University; Rebecca Shah, research fellow at Georgetown University; and Jonathan Wiles, vice president for program excellence at Living Water International.

Religion in the Workplace

September 16, 2015
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Dorothy BassFrom Kim Davis to the HSS Mandate, religion in the workplace is on the nation’s mind. On Wednesday, September 16th the Religion and Public Life Program hosted a panel discussion on the topic with three guest scholars. Dorothy Bass is the Director of the Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith, an organization that develops resources to help people live their Christian faith. Jerry Park is an associate professor of sociology and affiliate fellow for the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. Presently, his research is on the role of religion within the context of work and entrepreneurship. Brandon Vaidyanathan is director of research for the H.E. Butt Family Foundation and a public policy fellow at the Center for Ethics and Culture at University of Notre Dame. His present research (and a book under review) focuses on how corporate professionals in swiftly globalizing cities negotiate boundaries between work, consumption, and religion.