From its inception in 1957, the stated purpose of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies has been to stimulate academic interest and encourage research and publication in the broad area of church-state relations, which has been called "the greatest subject in the history of the West." This mission is carried out through graduate programs in Church-State Studies and Religion, Politics, and Society, the Church-State Research Center, and the Keston Center for Religion, Politics. We are also quite active in publishing, producing scholarly books and monographs, and, since 1958, publishing the quarterly Journal of Church & State, the leading journal in the field.
In carrying out its statement of purpose, the Institute has from the beginning sought to honor a threefold commitment: to be interfaith, interdisciplinary, and international. All of the programs of the Institute have been sustained, within an academic setting, by a commitment to the inviolability of religious liberty for all people, of all faiths and no faith, everywhere. By religious liberty is meant the principle that all human beings have the inalienable right to believe and practice any religion, or no religion at all, and that all governments, having no competence of their own in matters of religion, should remain free from unnecessary entanglements with religion and strive to protect this basic right which is so fundamental to all freedoms and provides the cornerstone of all human rights.
In the implementation of its programs, the Institute has sought always to be faithful to its commitment and purpose. It has brought to the University distinguished authors and scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines and religious traditions. Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, and Jews, as well as members of other religious traditions, have been frequent participants in its conferences and symposia and regular contributors to its publications. A diverse group of scholars have served from the beginning on the Editorial Council of the Journal of Church and State and the National Advisory Council of the Institute.