Cookson Lecture: Dr. Charles C. Haynes

Charles_Haynes_photoDr. Charles C. Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., and senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, will deliver the 2011 Cookson Religious Freedom Lecture on Wednesday, October 5, 2011, at 7:30 p.m. in Monumental Chapel. The title of Dr. Haynes’s talk is “From Battleground to Common Ground: Religious Liberty in Public Schools.”

After a convoluted and contentious history of getting it wrong, many public schools are finally beginning to get religion and religious liberty right. Contrary to culture-war rhetoric, there is more student religious expression in public schools today – and more attention to religion in the curriculum – than at any time since the 19th century. But unlike the unjust and unconstitutional violations of religious liberty that characterized much of public-school history, religion now goes to school mostly through the First Amendment door.  Nevertheless, schools still have some distance to go. Agreement on some issues – such as the place of religion in the curriculum or when students may pray together – doesn’t mean agreement on everything. Current conflicts regarding Bible elective courses, lawsuits over student religious expression before a captive audience, and ongoing attempts to challenge the teaching of evolution are reminders of how much work remains to be done.  We must build on the common ground achieved over the past two decades to ensure that all public schools become First Amendment schools.

Charles C. Haynes is widely known for his work on First Amendment issues in public schools. He has written several guides on religious liberty in the schools which have been endorsed by many religious and educational organizations. In 2000, three of these guides were distributed by the U.S. Department of Education to every public school in the U.S. Haynes has also authored or co-authored several books, including First Freedoms: A Documentary History of the First Amendment in 2006.

Haynes is a founding board member of the Character Education Partnership and serves on the steering committee of the American Bar Association’s Advisory Commission on Public Education. He is also chair of the Committee on Religious Liberty of the National Council of Churches. In 2008 he received the Virginia First Freedom Award from the Council for America’s First Freedom. Widely quoted in major newspapers and news magazines and a frequent guest on television and radio, Haynes’ commentary on religious freedom issues is posted regularly on the First Amendment Center’s website and his column, “Inside the First Amendment,” appears in newspapers across the U.S.

Dr. Haynes’s presentation will kick off the Center’s 2011 Symposium entitled “Religion in the Public Schools: Possibilities, Practices, and Pitfalls.”

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