Baylor Panel To Focus On Religion, The Constitution and 9/11

Sept. 6, 2005

by Julie Carlson

Baylor University will celebrate Constitution Day from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, with a panel discussion that examines religion, the Constitution and 9/11. The panel will focus on a number of vital questions such as whether the U.S. has a national religion and whether one is permitted under the Constitution; whether religion influenced the reaction to 9/11; and whether religion in the U.S. is different post-9/11.

A new federal mandate requires institutions of higher learning that receive federal funding to host an educational program on Sept. 17 related to the U.S. Constitution, but since Sept. 17 falls on a weekend, then institutions may hold the program during the week preceding or following that weekend.

"Colleges and universities will fulfill this requirement in various ways, but we have chosen to hold a panel discussion that focuses on a specific kind of issue in the Constitution," said Dr. James Bennighof, vice provost for academic administration. "One reason for not addressing the Constitution more generally is that all, or almost all, undergraduates at Baylor are required to take a semester-long course on American Constitutional Government."

Baylor's Constitution Day panel discussion will take place in Kayser Auditorium of the Hankamer School of Business.

"The event is strategically placed between commemoration of the 9/11 tragedy and Constitution Day," said Dr. Derek Davis, professor and director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies and panel organizer.

"We will ask such questions as: Is a national religion different from traditional religions and does it threaten traditional religions? How has religion fueled the war on terror and the war in Iraq? Are these 'holy wars?' Should war have a religious rationale? Has religious freedom been threatened in the United States, Iraq and other places due to the fallout of 9/11?"

Davis said the panel also will focus on such specifics as the religious freedoms of Muslims and other religious minorities since 9/11 and how all these questions square with the Constitution.

"We encourage all students, staff and faculty and the general public interested in these questions to attend."

Other panelists will be Baylor Interim President Dr. William D. Underwood, who also serves as the Leon Jaworski Professor of Practice and Procedure in Baylor's Law School; Dr. Joan Supplee, associate professor of history; and Dr. Marc Ellis, director of the Center for American and Jewish Studies. About half of the program will be devoted to prepared remarks by the panelists and the other half to discussion with the audience.

Explaining the need for Constitution Day, a survey by the National Constitution Center reported these statistics:

• 25.5 percent of respondents know that Philadelphia is the city where the Constitution was written compared to 75.2 percent who know what city the zip code 90210 is attributed to.

• 35.5 percent of respondents know the first three words of the Constitution compared to 71.2 percent who know that www is the first three letters of most Web site addresses.

• 1.8 percent of respondents know that James Madison is considered the father of the U.S. Constitution compared to 58.3 percent who know that Bill Gates is the father of Microsoft.

• 25 percent of respondents know that the Fifth Amendment protects against double jeopardy/self incrimination/right to a grand jury/due process/compensation for private property taken for public use compared to 63.7 percent who know that "The Club" protects against car theft.

• 41.2 percent of respondents know the names of the three branches of government compared to 59.2 percent who know the names of the three stooges.

Constitution Day panel is free and open to the public. For more information, call (254) 710-6500.

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