Elshishtawy Speaks at Newseum on 'Defining Religious Freedom in America'

March 27, 2013

Last week, the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum in Washington, DC, held a day-long symposium on “Defining Religious Freedom in America.”

SEE:Defining Religious Freedom in America: Current Challenges, Future Directions” full video (firstamendmentcenter.org)

Hoda Elshishtawy, MPAC’s Legislative and Policy Analyst, spoke on the first panel, “Is Religious Liberty Under Attack?” which was moderated by the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance.

“There are many current examples of communities being blocked from building mosques because of zoning codes and laws,” she said. “This is what is becoming increasingly frustrating and concerning for the American Muslim community, as the national discourse around Islam and Muslims is very negative. However, I must add that my grandparents immigrated to this country in the 1960s and to this day, they say that it is easier for them to practice their faith in America. This is a testament to this country and the laws that we have here.”

Other panelists during the morning session included: Wendy Kaminer, author and critic; Richard Foltin, Director of Legislative and National Affairs with the American Jewish Committee; Mark Chopko, partner and chair of the Nonprofit and Religious Institutions practice group of Stradley, Ronon, Stevens & Young, LLP; and K. Holly Hollman, General Counsel with the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

The panel also tackled whether religious liberty was under attack in America, the implementation of shariah laws and the challenges of diversity and accommodating various faiths. One thing all panelists agreed upon is that education is key to combating hate, and that an attack on one religion is an attack on all religions.

Throughout the day, the panelists spoke about the current challenges America faces with religious liberty and freedom and the impact pluralism has on these freedoms. The event was attended by more 150 people and included an interactive question and answer session with the audience.


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