Church and State: How Separate Should They Be?

October 16, 2017 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Knight Conference Center
555 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
Free and open to the public. Registration required.
Church and State: How Separate Should They Be? @ Knight Conference Center | Washington | District of Columbia | United States

With a new administration in power, the separation of church and state has again become a hot topic, fueling long-running debates about the balance of religious freedom and civil rights. In this discussion, panelists will debate questions such as:

  • Should individuals’ right to privacy — in making decisions about their health, family and other intimate matters — take precedence over government protections of religious organizations? Is it acceptable, for instance, for the government to fund foster care or adoption services with groups who do not support placing children in same-sex households? Or would that license discrimination against LGBTQ people?
  • Is it fair for religiously-affiliated businesses to abstain from providing employees healthcare provisions to which they morally object, like birth control? How do we balance the right of the employer with that of the employee? And where do we draw the line on defining religious groups and their rights versus those of individuals of other faiths or no faith?
  • Should pastors, priests and imams be free to express political views before their believers, or is that an unlawful mix of religion and politics by groups who enjoy tax-free status? Should government employees be able to refrain from some official duties because of religious objections?


Brendan O’Neill

Brendan O’Neill is editor of Spiked, a columnist for Reason, and a writer for The Spectator. Described by The Daily Telegraph as “one of Britain’s sharpest social commentators,” he has written and spoken widely on free speech, hate speech, and freedom of religion. He is a founder of Free Speech Now!, a campaign devoted to opposing all forms of censorship, and has spoken in favor of unfettered free speech on speaking tours in the U.K., Australia and the U.S.

Wendy Kaminer

Wendy Kaminer is an author, lawyer and civil libertarian. She has written about law, liberty and feminism for publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of eight books, including Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today.

Cynthia Romero

Cynthia Romero is director of communications for Catholics for Choice and editor of its flagship magazine Conscience. Previously, she served as strategic communications advisor in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where she helped bolster public support for human rights and women’s empowerment in hotspots like South Sudan and Syria. A seasoned advocate for global human rights and press freedoms, she has been a frequent commentator on CNN en Español, Mashable, Fox News and other outlets.

Julianna S. Gonen

Julianna S. Gonen is the policy director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, responsible for overseeing NCLR’s federal policy initiatives and managing the day-to-day operations of the organization’s Washington, D.C., office. Prior to joining NCLR, she was director of federal policy and advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, where she advocated before the United States Congress, executive branch agencies, and in the courts for public policies at the federal level that protect and advance reproductive health and rights.

Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt

The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt is president of Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, Calif. She previously served for 13 years as senior minister of The Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York. Born and raised in Chicago, Ill., she is a graduate of Yale University and Drew Theological Seminary. Rev. Bray McNatt also worked as an editor and widely anthologized writer for more than 20 years before answering the call to ordained ministry. Her social justice work most recently included service as the convener of OccupyFaithNYC, a multi-faith economic justice organization founded in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, and a co-convener of Moral Monday NYC, a multi-faith social justice group inspired by the Rev. Dr. William Barber. In 2002, she helped to found the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry, created to provide culturally sensitive liberal religious responses to mass disaster and other significant trauma.

Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus is a research fellow in the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies and managing editor of the Cato Supreme Court Review. His research interests include constitutional law, civil and criminal law, legal and political philosophy, and legal history. His academic work has appeared in journals such as the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the New York University Journal of Law and Liberty, the New York University Annual Survey of American Law, the Syracuse Law Review and many others. His popular writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, the Huffington Post, the New York Daily News and others.


Catholics For Choice


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