‘Future of Religious Freedom’ report released

Friday, April 28, 2006

CHICAGO — A conference report on the
“Future of Religious Freedom in America,” sponsored by the McCormick Tribune
Freedom Museum in collaboration with the First Amendment Center, recommends a
renewal of consensus guidelines on religion and public schools, development of
such guidelines on religion in the workplace and a new focus on the religious
liberties of Native Americans.

Conference participants also agreed that any discussion of religious freedom
in America must be framed with a view to religious freedom in other nations, and
how American foreign policy affects those freedoms.

“The power of these recommendations is that they come from leaders
representing a broad spectrum of religious conviction,” said Charles Haynes,
senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, and co-moderator of the
conference. “At the table were people with Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu,
Native American and humanist perspectives, as well as individuals from advocacy
groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the American Center
for Law and Justice.”

Among specific recommendations by the conference attendees, who met in

  • Update and widely distribute consensus guidelines on religion and public
  • Develop new consensus guidelines on religion in the “public square”
    and religious accommodation in the workplace.
  • Educate government officials about the state of current law concerning
    religious freedom in schools, workplace and other areas.
  • Convene a task force to propose ways to ensure greater protection for
    Native American religious practices and traditions.
  • Create a working group to explore international religious-liberty issues,
    especially in relation to U.S. foreign policy.

    “We are proud to have helped to assemble this formidable group of thought
    leaders to discuss key issues that impact the future of religious freedom,” said
    Dave Anderson, McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum's executive director. “By
    encouraging and fostering this type of dialogue, people can take action to
    address these issues.”

    “The nation's founders took particular care more than 200 years ago to
    respect the right of every person to choose their religious faith without
    government interference, or to have no faith at all,” said Gene Policinski,
    executive director of the First Amendment Center. “These recommendations are an
    important starting point in evaluating and strengthening this basic right so
    that it may better withstand the pressures of the 21st century.”

    The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum inspires generations to understand,
    value and protect freedom. Through interactive exploration, visitors gain a
    greater understanding of the struggle for freedom in the United States and the
    role the First Amendment plays in society. The McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum
    is part of the McCormick Tribune Foundation family, which also includes the
    Robert R. McCormick Museum, Cantigny Park and Golf, the Cantigny First Division
    Foundation and five grant making programs.

    “A focus on children, communities and country binds the Foundation and its
    many parts and keeps us true to our mission of advancing the ideals of a free
    and democratic society,” the foundation said. To learn more, please visit www.mccormicktribune.org.

    The First Amendment Center works to preserve and protect First Amendment
    freedoms through information and education. The center serves as a forum for the
    study and exploration of free-expression issues, including freedom of speech, of
    the press and of religion, and the rights to assemble and to petition the
    government. The First Amendment Center, with offices at Vanderbilt University in
    Nashville, Tenn., and Arlington, Va., is an operating program of the Freedom
    Forum and is associated with the Newseum. Its affiliation with Vanderbilt
    University is through the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies.

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