Beatrice Lawrence, associate professor of Theology and Religious Studies, and Charles M. Tung, associate professor of English, applied for and received State Department funding to host the Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) for Scholars on Religious Freedom and Pluralism at Seattle University (SU). The award is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by the Institute for Training and Development (ITD). ITD provides $360,000 per year for two years to run the six-week summer Institute for 18 scholars from various countries around the world. Dr. Lawrence will be SU’s Director of the Institute on Religious Freedom and Pluralism, and Dr. Jaisy Joseph, assistant professor in THRS, will be the Associate Director. Andrew Asplund from the Office of Global Engagement will be the program coordinator, and Dr. Tung will serve as a project consultant.
The Study of the U.S. Institute for Scholars on Religious Freedom and Pluralism examines U.S. society and culture, past and present, through the lens of religious freedom as a foundational American value. The program includes a survey of the religious landscape of the United States, inclusive of major and minor religious groups, in addition to historic religious traditions and contemporary American religious groups. The Institute explores both the historical and contemporary relationship between church and state in the United States; examines interfaith understanding and dialogue, religious pluralism, freedom of religion as a fundamental unalienable human right and source of stability; and discusses ways in which religious freedom should be protected. The program analyzes the intersections of religion and politics in the United States, especially in U.S. foreign policy. Participants have opportunities to meet with U.S. community leaders of different faiths who advocate for collaboration and tolerance among religious groups. The program also includes a study tour to a different region of the United States.
Dr. Lawrence has created a rich and intellectually exciting range of seminars featuring scholars from Seattle University, the University of Washington, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Purdue University, Case Western University, Emory University, Georgetown University, and the University of Maryland. SUSI participants will also meet with educators and religious leaders from diverse communities and make site visits to houses of worship ranging from evangelical megachurches and synagogues to Buddhist monasteries and mosques.
The Institute on Religious Freedom and Pluralism at Seattle University will begin next summer 2021 and will include four weeks of academic residency at SU and a two-week study to sites of historic, cultural, and intellectual interest in Moscow, Idaho; Atlanta, Georgia; and Washington, D.C. Institute goals include more complex understandings of the role that diverse religious communities have played and continue to play in U.S. history, culture, institutions, and society; an enhanced set of pedagogies for teaching such complexity; new pathways for research and curriculum development in participants’ home countries; and the possibility of further opportunities for meaningful exchange of ideas and experiences.