Lecture, documentary film to shed light on religious freedom

Oct. 18, 2012

By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) An endowed lecture series linked to the colonial ancestry of two Riverside sisters will shed light on the history of religious freedom in America and on those revolutionary influencers whose ideals continue to impact modern society.

On Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. La Sierra University will present the annual “Isaac Backus American Freedoms Lecture on Religious Liberties” by attorney and religious liberty advocate Karen Scott. Her talk titled “Freedom FOR Religion or Freedom FROM Religion?: Jefferson, Madison, and the Virginia Dissenters” will explore whether the country’s revolutionary founders pursued a church-state union, separation of church and state or another construct. The lecture will discuss how the writings, letters, speeches and legislation of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Patrick Henry, together with petitions sent to the Virginia Legislature provide insight into the roles government and religion played in Revolutionary America. Such sources continue to guide modern controversies over the place of government and religion in today’s society.

The lecture will be preceded by a documentary film on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. co-produced by Scott and titled “Roger Williams: Freedom’s Forgotten Hero.” The documentary aired on a PBS station in 2003 as part of Fourth of July celebrations. The film portrays the life of Roger Williams, an English Protestant theologian, proponent of religious freedom and anti-slavery advocate, and founder of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations which provided refuge for religious minorities.

The film will be screened in La Sierra University’s Cossentine Hall 102 and the lecture will take place in Cossentine Hall 106. A reception will precede both events at 6:30 p.m. in the Cossentine Hall lobby. Admission is free to the film and the lecture. La Sierra University is located at 4500 Riverwalk Parkway, Riverside. A campus map is available at lasierra.edu/index.php. Further information is available at (951) 785-2341.

The Isaac Backus lecture and film are presented by La Sierra’s University Library and the Department of History, Politics and Society. The Isaac Backus American Freedoms Lecture is funded by the Florence and Eleanor Backus American Freedoms Endowment established in 1986 with a gift from the estate of sisters Florence and Eleanor Backus. The long-time Riverside residents died during the 1980s. They were descendants of Isaac Backus (1724-1806), a leading Baptist preacher, member of the first Continental Congress and a dissenter who fought the imposition of religious taxes and generally championed the cause of religious freedom. Among other things, he published a sermon in 1773 articulating his desire for separation of church and state.

The primary purpose of the La Sierra endowment is to facilitate understanding of important constitutional issues concerned with American freedoms, particularly those intersecting with religious liberty.

Scott is an officer and advisor of the Center for Liberty of Conscience. She is a native of Canada and earned a Juris Doctor from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia. Scott successfully argued a religious liberty case before the Supreme Court of Canada, setting a new precedent in that country for workplace religious and disability accommodation. In the United States, Scott monitored California religious liberty and private education legislation, became a member of the State Bar of California and served as In House Counsel for Educational Media Foundation, the parent nonprofit corporation of the K-LOVE and Air 1 Radio networks.

Scott is a regular speaker for teachers’ conventions, women’s ministry retreats, churches, lawyers’ meetings and other events. She has appeared on radio and television programs concerning liberty of conscience issues and is an advisory board member with ReligiousLiberty.TV. She recently completed a master of studies in international human rights law at the University of Oxford.

  • Last update on  October 22, 2012