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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Law and Divinity Schools To Hold Conference on Religion in the Military Nov. 13-14

Yale Law School and Yale Divinity School will co-sponsor a working conference on religion in the military Nov. 13-14, bringing together religious and military leaders from across the country to address thorny issues that challenge chaplains, commanders, and policy makers who are charged with providing spiritual and religious support in intentionally pluralistic communities.

The conference, free and open to the public, is entitled “Faith and Arms in a Democratic Society: A Working Conference on Religion in the Military.” It will be held at Yale Divinity School, 409 Prospect St., on Friday night, Nov. 13, and at the Law School, 127 Wall St., on Saturday, Nov. 14.

Organizing the conference are Kristen Leslie, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling at the Divinity School, and Eugene Fidell, senior research scholar in law and the Florence Rogatz Lecturer in Law at the Law School. Several years ago Leslie was instrumental in raising questions about Christian proselytizing at the United States Air Force Academy based on observations during visits there. Fidell is among the most prominent attorneys in the country on issues relating to religion in the military.

The conference will begin Friday night at the Divinity School with a keynote address by Anne C. Loveland, faculty emerita from Louisiana State University, who will address “Military Chaplains in Cultural Transition, 1946 to the Present.” The conference continues on Saturday at the Law School with a series of three panel discussions: “The State and the Church: Constitutional Issues”; “Pastor to Some, Chaplains to All: Pastoral Implications for Chaplains”; and “The Path Ahead for Chaplaincy: Issues for the Future.” Jeff Sharlet, visiting research scholar with the Center for Religion and Media at New York University will deliver a lunchtime lecture on “When Democracy is Not Enough.”

A letter of invitation sent by Leslie and Fidell refers to the “challenging” environment facing chaplains, commanders and policy makers, fueled in significant measure by the growth of the Evangelical community within the armed forces.

“The result has been to turn what should be a source of spiritual support and a constructive component of national defense personnel policy into a series of challenges and, at times, divisive litigation. The program will explore these issues in a setting that facilitates mutual understanding and respect.”

The invitation notes that there is no intention to reach conclusions or to frame recommendations.

Registration for the conference begins at YDS at 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, with the keynote address scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. On Saturday, registration begins at the Law School at 8:30 a.m., following by the panel presentations, a luncheon address, and closing remarks at 3:45 p.m.

The conference is supported by the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School and the Yale Divinity School.