Cedarville is hosting The Religious Freedom Summit in partnership with the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview on October 9 and 10.
Dr. Thomas White, president of Cedarville University, said he hopes attendees will be motivated to “take up the banner of defending religious freedom… not only in America but all across the world.” He said Christians are called upon to engage culture and need to do so articulately with compassion and truth.
On the meaning of religious freedom, Mark Smith, director of Cedarville’s Center for Political Studies, said, that although Americans enjoy a great deal of religious freedom, there is a growing divide over what religious freedom should mean.
“Like most of our civil liberties,” he said, “religious freedom means whatever the Supreme Court says it does.”
Smith said he hopes attendees will understand how culture is shifting, the challenges facing religious freedom and how religious freedom fits in with other civil liberties.
“Historically in America, religious freedom used to trump most other discussions about when there was a clash of right,” he said. “Now, that’s not necessarily the case.”
Smith said that religious freedom continues to be challenged by the trends of a growing number of secular Americans, people who don’t understand why religious people should be treated differently, and America’s growing diversity.
Robert Vaughn, Cedarville professor of criminal justice, said that religious freedom continues to be threatened today. He said there are many court battles between the government trying to enforce mandates and people refusing to violate their conscious.
“This is nothing new,” he said. “It has been happening throughout our history.”
Yet, he said, these issues have gotten more popular attention lately as today’s social issues confront Biblical teaching.
Dennis Sullivan, director of Cedarville’s Center for Bioethics, said that Christians need to be participating in “a messy thing called democracy.”
“Cedarville University is a Christian academic center of excellence,” he said. “We’re trying to not just inform the world about Christian principles but trying to help the world think through important social issues.”
Sullivan also said that while America is not a Christian nation, Christians still need to be vocal about their beliefs in the public arena.
“We’re not really getting the opportunity for Christian thought to be active in public thought,” he said. “Instead we’re getting a lot political opinions… A lot of what we decide is being determined by political sound bytes rather than deep thought.”
Sullivan said that human dignity, freedom of expression and the sanctity of human life will suffer unless Christian thought is brought back into politics.
“Why is Cedarville University interested in (religious freedom)?” he said. “It is because we are getting assaulted in areas that should be informed by religious faith.”
Sullivan said religious freedom means much more than the controversial topics of today. Religious ideas as a group are tossed out of the public square, he said, and it is important that Christians do not surrender their liberties.
“We need to be engaged and understand what the stakes are,” he said.
White says that the Religious Freedom Summit is about religious freedom for all faiths.
“We want a free marketplace of ideas where we can present the gospel and where others have the opportunity to repent and believe in Jesus without coercion as long as they live,” he said. “Ultimately, the Religious Freedom Summit is important because the gospel is important.”
Brandon Best is a freshman English major and writer for Cedars. He enjoys writing, life and all the seasons of the year.