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“Religion and Politics” Theme of T.B. Maston Christian Ethics Lectures at HSU

By Dave Coffield



Melissa Rogers, J.D. Looks at First Amendment, Faith and Politics Hardin-Simmons University welcomes Melissa Rogers, a lawyer and visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School, as lecturer for the eighth annual T.B. Maston Christian Ethics Lectures at HSU’s Logsdon School of Theology. This year’s lectures, scheduled for 14 Apr at 7:00 p.m. and 15 Apr at 9:30 a.m. in Logsdon Chapel, explore themes related to church and state. The first lecture, “The Past, Present, and Potential Future of First Amendment Rules Regarding Religion in Public Schools,” examines the issue of religion in public schools, “We cannot understand our nation or our world without understanding religion. But how do we teach about religion in our public schools in ways that respect the Constitution? Students do not shed their free speech rights, including the right to express their faiths, at the schoolhouse door. But how do we ensure that the rights of students of all faiths and none are protected in that setting?” Melissa Rogers will explore some of what the Supreme Court of the United States has had to say about these and related issues, and she will consider where the Court might be headed in the future on certain relevant matters. Rogers also will suggest some ethical guideposts for religious students and their parents to consider as they seek to be faithful citizens in our nation’s public schools. The second lecture, “Religion on the Stump, Politics in the Pulpit: Faith and Politics in the 2008 Race,” will explore a range of issues, involving the ethics of religion in politics.What’s your favorite Bible verse? You may have heard that question in church, but it also was asked of the Democratic presidential candidates in a recent debate. Rogers will consider whether that kind of question is an appropriate one to ask of candidates for public office. She also will explore a range of related issues, from Governor Mitt Romney’s speech on faith and politics to some of the furor over certain sermons of Senator Barack Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Additionally, Rogers will touch on the legal rules that apply to tax-exempt organizations, including churches, during the election season, and some of the ethical struggles religious leaders face when they are active in politics. “Church-state separation does not require that religion and politics be divorced from one another. But, if we are to respect the integrity of faith and the vitality of our pluralistic democracy, we must draw some lines in this area.” Rogers previously served as the executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in Washington, D.C. The Forum, a project supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, serves as a clearinghouse and a town hall for the discussion of the ways in which religion shapes ideas and institutions. Previous to her leadership at the Pew Forum, Rogers served as general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty based in Washington, D.C. In 2004, Rogers was recognized by National Journal as one of the church-state experts “politicians will call on when they get serious about addressing an important public policy issue. Rogers has written widely about the relationship between religion and government. She has co-authored a case book on religion and law that will be published by Baylor University Press. Rogers earned her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was a member of the National Moot Court Team and a Legal Writing Instructor. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Baylor University.The T. B. Maston Christian Ethics Lectures series, named for Dr. T.B. Maston who taught Christian ethics at Southwestern Seminary for over forty years, explores the application of the Christian faith to life. Dr. Maston was known for his pioneering writing and teaching in The areas of biblical ethics, race relations, family life, the Christian and vocation, church and state, and character formation. One of the highlights of the lecture series will be the presentation of “Young Maston Scholars” from Texas Baptist universities.Both lectures are free and open to the public.

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