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The 'Conscience of the State': Religion's Role as an Independent Check on Government

  • Wednesday, February 21, 2018
  • 7:30 PM–9:00 PM
  • Covenant Fine Arts Center Recital Hall

The annual Paul B. Henry Lecture will explore ways in which the U.S. Constitution and other legal and civic traditions create conditions in which faith can be independent from government, while also serving as conscience of the state.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said the church "is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool." In the annual Paul B. Henry Lecture, Melissa Rogers asserts that to serve as the conscience of the state, religion must be meaningfully independent of government. This need for independence does not mean that religious leaders and organizations cannot cooperate with government to accomplish shared goals -- but does mean that the religious sector should preserve its autonomy and ability to call the state to "the better angels of our nature," as Abraham Lincoln said.

A senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, Rogers is a distinguished church-state lawyer who served as a special assistant to President Obama and led the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships from 2013-2017 as well as chairing the inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She formerly served as director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School and was the executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Rogers has led efforts to forge consensus among diverse religious and secular groups on numerous key public policy issues. Her areas of expertise include the First Amendment's religion clauses, religion in American public life, and the interplay of religion, policy and politics, and she is the author of Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court.

This lecture is free and open to the public.  The event will be livestreamed at:

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