Forum discusses role of religion in public

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

All over the globe, human beings of all faiths and of none are wrestling with the question: What exactly is the proper role of religion in the public life of nations?

At the next Catawba College Community Forum on Tuesday, Jan. 16, a two-person panel, moderated by Dr. Michael Bitzer, chairman of Catawba’s Department of History and Politics, will offer brief comments on this topic. The panelists’ comments will be followed by a free-ranging question and answer session with the audience.

Panelist Ken Garfield spent fourteen years as religion writer and editor at The Charlotte Observer. In November 2006 he left the Observer to become director of communications for Charlotte’s Myers Park United Methodist Church. Garfield serves on the board of “Mecklenburg Ministries,” an interfaith group based in Charlotte. He has been a frequent speaker at religious, civic, and school groups and has appeared weekly on WBTV’s Friday morning news show. His connection to Catawba extends back to 1979 when he and his wife Sharon were married in Omwake Dearborn Chapel on the Catawba campus. In 2004, their son Matthew graduated from Davidson College where his sister Ellen is currently a senior.

Garfield will be joined on the panel by Dr. James Dunn, Wake Forest University’s adjunct professor of Christianity and Public Policy. From 1980 until 1999, Dunn was executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and he still serves that committee as president of its endowment. The Baptist Joint Committee, with offices in Washington, deals with issues of religious liberty and separation of church and state for fourteen Baptist conventions and conferences in the United States.

Dunn has also served as a pastor and campus minister. He has appeared on news programs of all the major television networks and has been a frequent guest on television documentaries.

He has also testified on numerous occasions before congressional committees, as he did in 2001 before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the confirmation of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Dunn’s wife Marilyn is a well-known Baptist musician.

The forum, which is free, begins at 7:30 p.m. in Tom Smith Auditorium of Ralph W. Ketner Hall on the campus of Catawba College.