Panelists Consider Controversy Over Religion, Public Life

From recent Supreme Court rulings on school prayer to a presidential campaign where God is the third running mate, the division between church and state is becoming increasingly murkier.

With Science Center C packed with students and community members last night, a panel discussion between religious and political scholars attempted to address the increasingly intertwined nature of religion in public life.

Led by Moderator Nur Yalman and panelists Professors of Camparative Religion and Indian Studies Diana L. Eck, Professor of the Practice in Religion and Society J. Bryan Hehir, John Roberts and Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel, panel members addressed the First Amendment, parochial school funding, school prayer and religion's political impact.


"The subject of religion in public life stirs up some of the most heated, passionate controversies there are these days in politics," Sandel said at the beginning of his remarks.

And in a presidential campaign which has featured Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) as the first Jewish vice presidential candidate and where Texas Gov. George W. Bush proclaimed Jesus Christ as his "hero," politics and religion seem intrinsically intertwined.

For Sandel, this relationship is not necessarily a bad thing. Sandel said the attempts of President John F. Kennedy '40 to deny that his Catholicism would have any affect on his performance in the Oval Office were off the mark.

Sandel said the evolution from Kennedy to Lieberman was healthy for civic democracy.

"The danger is that if you try to keep religious arguments out of the public square in the name of pluralism, in the name of tolerance, then the public square will be left empty," he said.

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