Law & Religion Speaker Series, Dr. Steven Green – Report Out

On December 4th students and faculty in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences had the honor of hosting Professor Steven K. Green as the inaugural speaker for the University of Washington Tacoma’s Law & Religion Speaker Series. Professor Green is the Fred H. Paulus Professor of Law and the Director of the Center for Religion, Law & Democracy at Willamette University. In addition, he has co-authored and written a number of books, including The Bible, the School, and the Constitution: The Clash that Shaped Modern Church-State Doctrine (Oxford, 2012) and, more recently, Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding (Oxford, 2015). Professor Green also helped draft the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and has participated in several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Our learning and engagement with Professor Green started with a lunch seminar hosted by Professor Eric Bugyis and a group of students and faculty who meet regularly to discuss recent research related to religion, culture, and society. In anticipation of this seminar, our group, which we have dubbed the “Religious Studies Collective,” met in October and November to read and discuss Professor Green’s most recent book. The luncheon was an opportunity to discuss some of the important issues taken up by the book that are impacting our society today. Having the opportunity to read Professor Green’s book, have a discussion with him, and hear his thoughts on topics that we had questions about was a great way to bring our reading full circle. It also served as an opportunity to provide some context for the lecture that we attended that evening.

Professor Green’s lecture, which was hosted by the UW Tacoma Division of Politics, Philosophy & Public Affairs, UW School of Law, and the Tacoma City Club, was titled “The Tension between Marriage Equality and Religious Liberty.” Professor Green discussed the set of interrelated issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court’s decision concerning the Hobby Lobby case, Kim Davis, and the impact that these laws, cases, and decisions have on religious liberty, marriage equality, and other tensions that arise when the state intervenes in questions concerning the common good that intersect with the religious convictions of individuals and groups. While most of us have heard about and have a basic understanding of the Hobby Lobby case, and perhaps caught some of the Kim Davis case that was covered extensively by the media over this past summer, Professor Green’s lecture shed some light on the important details involved in cases like these. Cases that deal with clashes that occur between a person’s religious liberty and the legal rights of another, we learned, are very delicate and complicated situations. Not only do the rights of those involved need to be upheld, but the actual laws, legal technicalities, and application of the laws involved must be interpreted and are continuously debated.

When Professor Green concluded his presentation, the audience asked questions, which led to an interesting discussion. One of the questions concerned the legal technicalities in the Hobby Lobby case. Professor Green cited the relevance of the Citizen’s United decision, which controversially defined corporations as “people” in the eyes of the law, allowing the beliefs (religious beliefs in this case) of the owners of the corporation to be protected by the rights of the corporation as such. This in turn has an effect on the actual people that work for a corporation, such as Hobby Lobby, insofar as their right to religious freedom as individual employees is placed in direct competition with the perceived right to religious freedom of the corporation. While we only scratched the surface of understanding the complexity and depth of legal proceedings such as these, learning experiences like this give us important tools and information to approach other issues and conflicts that will certainly continue to arise in societies all around the world.

As students, we read so many books by amazing and interesting authors, and we often wish that we had the opportunity to ask them questions about their work and the important issues they write about. This was a chance to do just that! As a Religious Studies, PPE, and Global Studies student, this was an experience that allowed me look at religion and law in society through a different lens and to delve a little deeper into the legal aspects of situations where religious liberty and individual rights are sometimes at odds. Events like this take the concepts and ideas I’ve been studying at UWT and connect them to issues going on in our society today. It’s these connections that expand my thinking about the ways in which I can take my education and experience into many different arenas and make a difference when I graduate.

In the pursuit of my degree here at UWT, it has been my goal to gain a deeper understanding of different cultures, religions, and politics, and the turbulence that can occur at the intersections of these. Groups like our Religious Studies Collective and events like the speaker series give me an opportunity to think about issues in society outside of the classroom. I believe it is in this way that I can use this extra curricular education to facilitate a more dynamic approach to the way I think about issues in my own life, family, and community. In our family we’ve always said that education and life experience go hand in hand and are truly invaluable to living a meaningful life and having a positive impact on the world. A deeper understanding of the complexity of the issues we face as members of a University, state, and national community can only help to improve the way we handle differences and conflicts in our lives and the world at large.

I’m looking forward to the next lecture in this series by Professor Ludger Viefhues-Bailey, which is taking place this Thursday, March 10, at 5:30 in Joy 117, entitled “Religious Liberties for Illiberal Purposes: Theorizing Religious Liberty Claims” and for other events like this at UWT that will also bring greater depth to my education.

 

-LeeAnn Huezo

PPPA Student

Unfinished Sentences

On January 27th, Professor Angelina Godoy, Director of the UW Center for Human Rights, and Emily Williard, PhD Student in the Jackson School, joined the campus for a talk entitled “Unfinished Sentences: Seeking Justice in El Salvador.” The presentation discussed the amazing work of the UW Human Rights Center, which  connects students, scholars, activists and affected communities in the pursuit of justice in the aftermath of El Salvador’s civil war (http://unfinishedsentences.org).

 

In their presentation, Professor Godoy explained the genesis of the ‘Unfinished Sentences’ project and described the complexities of human rights work in El Salvador. Her presentation featured UW students developing video archives and narratives about the disappearances throughout the civil war. Professor Godoy explained the significant obstacles to constructing a history of violence during this internecine conflict and, occasionally, the joy at reconnecting long-lost family members. She discussed the powerful collaborative work between the UWHCR, domestic advocacy groups, and local communities working in the wake of devastation. The talk emphasized UWCHR’s pursuit of additional documentation of the American role in the civil war. Emily Williard described the challenge of amassing and analyzing documents from the State Department, CIA, and other governmental entities in order to construct an image of the conflict in El Savaldor.

 

The presentation also gave UW-Tacoma students the opportunity to ask questions about multiple aspects of the human rights context in El Salvador, the work of the Center, and the role concerned students could play in the future. Angelina and Emily shared their vision of the Center, helped the audience understand the legacy of the civil war, and described the Center’s numerous opportunities for undergraduate and graduate work (http://humanrights.washington.edu/resources/internships-volunteer-opportunities/). In general, the presentation provided students the opportunity to see an example of human rights work in action, to see the powerful effect it can have on the victims of violence, and witness the university’s contribution to this process. The event offered UW-Tacoma students an opportunity to learn about human rights efforts, but also created a space for a collective response to the fear and intimidation that often accompanies human rights work.

PPPA Student, Diliman Abdulkader, Is an Award Winner and Star Intern

DilimanAbdulkader_TVadDiliman Abdulkader had a busy but successful Fall quarter.  As an intern in the PPPA Capstone internship program, Diliman worked at the office of Congressman Derek Kilmer.  His time as an intern not only earned him academic credit and satisfied his Capstone requirement, but it gave him valuable real world experience that he will carry into his continued studies and beyond into his career.

As an intern with Congressman Kilmer Diliman fulfilled many duties such as answering emails and phone calls from concerned constituents, and filing documents for the congressman.  He also had the opportunity to interact with other employees in the office to organize community events that the congressman attended during his time away from Washington DC at his Tacoma office.  Diliman also had the opportunity to attend events with Congressman Kilmer, including those dealing with the current refugee crisis.  These opportunities were important to Diliman not only because of his career aspirations, but also because he was able to provide his own perspective to the congressman having been a refugee in the past as well.

The most valuable experience Diliman took from his internship was the opportunity to be directly involved in the realm of domestic politics.  He truly appreciated the ability to learn from and interact with the community on a day to day basis.  Diliman has a keen interest in international relations and human rights, but his internship with Congressman Kilmer helped him to understand the importance of domestic policy.  He feels that this experience will assist him in the future as he pursues further studies and his career.  At this time Diliman is applying to graduate schools and hopes to earn a Masters degree in international relations.  His goal is to become a diplomat for the United Nations between Kurdistan and the United States.

We wish him the best of luck!

For information about the PPPA Capstone internship program please contact Ann Frost at acfrost@u.washington.edu.

Strategies to combat Islamic extremism

PPPA faculty membkayaoglu_turan_photo_2013er Turan Kayaoglu recently penned an op-ed for the News Tribune about the role we all play in combating Islamic extremism.  In the article, he stresses the importance of fighting against hatred, dispelling evil with goodness, and ceasing the demonizing and stereotyping of Muslims that contributes to the extremist belief that Islamic and American ideals are incompatible.

“Sandwiched as they are between Muslim radicals and American Islamophobes, Muslims face trying times. But like American ideals, Islam teaches hope, not despair.

The packed audience of Muslims and non-Muslims in a Bellevue seminar organized by the Muslim nonprofit organization Pacifica Institute conference on Dec. 15 offered the hope I was looking for.”

Read the full article here

Unfinished Sentences: Seeking Justice in El Salvador

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Please join us Wednesday, January 27th 2016 from 12:25pm-1:25pm in Carwein Auditorium for “Unfinished Sentences: Seeking Justice in El Salvador”

Unfinished Sentences will address the human rights situation in El Salvador today, in particular the attempt by human rights groups, supported by the University of Washington Center for Human Rights (UWCHR), to hold accountable perpetrators of atrocities committed by government and militia forces in the 1980s civil war. Following the CIA’s refusal to release information relevant to these cases, UWCHR sued the CIA under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to release the requested documents. The talk discusses the challenges facing the Center in this effort and the need for greater informational transparency versus government secrecy as well as the center’s recent conference “Access to Information as a Human Right.”

Angelina Snodgrass Godoy is a sociologist by training (MA and PhD, UC Berkeley; BA Harvard) whose research focuses on human rights in Latin America. She has previous worked for Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. At the University of Washington, Professor Godoy serves as Helen H. Jackson Endowed Chair in Human Rights and founding Director of the Center for Human Rights. The UWCHR is an interdisciplinary center that promotes teaching, research, and engagement across the curriculum in all three UW campuses, and in partnership with local, national, and international organizations actively working for human rights. Professor Godoy is the author of two books published by Stanford University Press Popular Injustice: Violence, Community, and Law in Latin America (2006) and Of Medicines and Markets: Intellectual Property and Human Rights in the Free Trade Era (2013). She is also the proud recipient of the University of Washington’s 2014 Outstanding Public Service Award.

Emily Williard is a PhD student at the Jackson School of International Studies, focusing her research on women’s involvement in armed groups in Central America. She is a research assistant for the Unfinished Sentences project at the UW Center for Human Rights. Previously she worked as a research associate at the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C. specializing in analyzing declassified documents and using the FOIA.

 

Sponsored by UWT Associates of the Center of Human Rights and the Division of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs.

Undergraduate Fellowship Opportunities for UWT Students Available in Canada

The Killam Fellowships Program provides an opportunity for exceptional UW undergraduate students to spend one semester or a full academic year in Canada. The Killam Fellowships Program offers a fellowship award of $5,000 per semester (up to $10,000 for two semesters). Click to view website.

The Corbett Fellowships Program provides an opportunity for exceptional UW undergraduate students to spend a full academic year at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The Corbett Fellowships Program offers a fellowship award of $7,000 for two semesters (September through April). Click to view website.

Welcome Dustin Annis, PPPA Administrative Coordinator

Annis_DustinDustin Annis is the new Administrative Coordinator for the Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs Division as well as the Culture, Arts and Communication Division. Dustin comes to the position with two and a half years of experience at UW Tacoma, having previously served the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences as its Program Assistant, as well as filling the same role at the Center for Urban Waters. The opportunity to continue to serve SIAS faculty in this new role is an exciting venture for him. In addition to working for SIAS, Dustin is also an active student at UW Tacoma where he is pursuing a degree in Ethnic, Gender and Labor Studies with a minor in Mathematics. In his spare time, Dustin enjoys crafting, playing the piano, and cooking.