March 20, 2008 | na

Koldenhoven receiving the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for political courage and public service.

Calvin College will host Dean Koldenhoven on March 31 for the 12th annual Paul B. Henry Lecture.

A former mayor of Palos Heights, Ill., and a 2002 recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, Koldenhoven will speak on "Religious Tolerance, Love your Neighbor" at 7:30 p.m. at the Prince Conference Center. The event is free and open to all.

Religious controversy

Koldenhoven made the news in May 2000, three years into his term, when plans to open a mosque in his Chicago suburb upset many residents and exploded into controversy. Mayor Koldenhoven supported the sale of a vacant Christian church to the Al Salam Mosque Foundation, knowing it would be a test of his leadership. When an antagonistic city council failed to deter the sale, the council offered the Foundation a $200,000 buy-out to abandon its plans. To the ire of his colleagues and constituents, Koldenhoven vetoed the payoff, calling it an embarrassment and an insult to the Muslim community.

The mayor's opposition drew national attention, resulting in a fierce public backlash against the middle-class community. Residents blamed the mayor for bringing unwanted attention to the town and damaging its reputation. Ultimately, the Al Salam Mosque Foundation decided against moving to Palos Heights, and the town voted against purchasing the property.

Dean Koldenhoven lost his bid for re-election; many believed his defeat was due to the controversy surrounding his defense of religious freedom and tolerance.

Love your neighbor 

When asked in 2002, upon receiving the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for political courage and public service, how he decided to take his controversial stand, Koldenhoven talked about Jesus' command in the Bible to love your neighbor and about the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment right to freely exercise religion.
The annual Henry Lecture is sponsored by the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics which was created in 1997 to continue the work of integrating Christian faith and politics advanced by its namesake: educator and public servant Paul B. Henry. Henry taught political science at Calvin College from 1970 to 1978, then served in the Michigan State House and State Senate and finally in the U.S. House of Representatives from November 1984 until his untimely death in July 1993.

Henry's book Politics for Evangelicals provided a blueprint for his own involvement in public service, involvement characterized by a constant search for justice.

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