The Biblical Influences on Religious Freedom

Freedom of religion is a cherished American liberty, firmly codified in the nation’s Bill of Rights. But what are the origins of this concept? Join us for a lively discussion on the ways the Bible and its interpretations informed the writings and philosophies of John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Martin Luther King Jr. Each of these well-known figures were influenced by the Bible and incorporated its language into their work.


Timothy Samuel Shah, Ph.D.

Timothy Samuel Shah is Research Professor of Government at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion; Director for International Research at the Religious Freedom Research Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs; and Senior Director of the South and Southeast Asia Action Team with the Religious Freedom Institute, a new nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Byron Johnson, Ph.D.

Byron Johnson is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. He is the founding director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) as well as director of the Program on Prosocial Behavior. He is a leading authority on the scientific study of religion, the efficacy of faith-based organizations, and criminal justice. Johnson’s recent publications have examined the impact of faith-based programs on recidivism reduction and prisoner reentry.

Jacqueline C. Rivers, Ph.D.

Jacqueline C. Rivers is currently a lecturer at Harvard University. She is the Executive Director and Senior Fellow for Social Science and Policy of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies. She has presented at Princeton University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, the American Enterprise Institute, the Vatican, the United Nations and in several other venues.

Robert Louis Wilken, Ph.D.

Robert Louis Wilken is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, past president of the American Academy of Religion, the North American Patristics Society, and the Academy of Catholic Theology. He is chairman of the board of directors of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, the publisher of First Things.

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