Forum examines whether religion will, in the years to come, be a force that eases, or deepens, political polarization in America.


The Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University will host a large group of prominent faith leaders and religion scholars on Wednesday, October 29, for a public forum -- free and open to the public -- on the question of whether religion will in the years to come be a force that eases, or deepens, political polarization in America.

The conversation and workshops begin at 5:00 p.m. at NYU Wagner’s home in the Puck Building, 295 Lafayette St. (at the corner of Houston St.), 2nd Floor, Manhattan. RSVP is required: Please visit to register.

Religious leaders have always taken a prominent role on the American public stage, from Cotton Mather to Martin Luther King, Billy Graham to the anti-war Berrigan brothers. A striking characteristic of this most recent period of religious involvement in and influence on American democratic life is the assertive politicization of religious communities even as religious diversity fractures many of the social-justice coalitions of the past. Increasingly, the religious discourse that is influencing political discourse represents absolutist truth claims about particular elements of public life, including such contentious issues as abortion, the death penalty, and civil, women’s and gay rights. One could easily claim that the shift of these past decades represents a potential threat to the foundations of American democracy that rests on a tolerance of and respect for alternative views.

Among those participating in the one-and-a-half-hour session:

Dr. Colt Anderson
Dean, Fordham University Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education

Rev. Richard Cizik
President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, Former Vice President for
Governmental Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals

Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Ph.D.
Dean, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Isaac Luria
Vice President of Auburn Action, Auburn Theological Seminary

Dr. Carrie Nordlund
Clinical Assistant Professor of Public Service,  NYU Wagner

Jill Rauh
Assistant Director of Education and Outreach
Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Rev. Dr. Kevin O'Reilly

Academic Dean, New York Diocesan Seminary at Dunwoodie

Rev. Dr. Tony Richie
Bishop, Church of God; Senior Pastor, New Harvest Church

Dr. Helene Slessarev-Jamir
Mildred M. Hutchinson Professor of Urban Ministries, Claremont Theological Seminary

Susan Stern
Chair, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, The White House

Rev. John Vaughn
Executive Vice President, Auburn Theological Seminary

Jim Winkler
President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches

The Research Center for Leadership in Action (RCLA) at NYU Wagner and The Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life are co-sponsoring this event. The event is part of the Ford Foundation-supported Religious Leadership, Civil Discourse and Democracy in the Public Square Project, which is led by David Elcott, the Henry and Marilyn Taub Professor of Practice in Public Service and Leadership at NYU Wagner.

Press Contact

Robert Polner
Robert Polner
(212) 998-2337