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Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III ’67
Institute for Religious Liberty

MISSION STATEMENT

To advance the American concept of religious freedom as an unalienable right and the protection of this right for all people.

Beginnings of the Institute

The William T. Robinson III Institute for Religious Liberty (IRL) serves to advance the American concept of religious freedom as an unalienable right and the protection of this right for all people. It was established in 2015 after several local business and educational leaders, including representatives from Hebrew Union College, discussed the need to celebrate and educate others about the constitutional privilege and right to freely worship and practice religion.

“Religious freedom is part of the warp and woof of our nation,” said Gary P. Zola, Ph.D., who represents Hebrew Union College on the IRL Executive Committee. “In light of contemporary events that capture the headlines daily, it is difficult to identify a more salient and timely subject to explore in a forum of this sort.”

Headed by Executive Director Raymond G. Hebert, Ph.D., dean of the College emeritus, the IRL strives to accomplish its mission through education and dialogue in the form of academic symposia and lectures featuring internationally renowned speakers.


Stay Tuned for Details on the Institute for Religious Liberty’s Next Event

Previous Events

2015-16 Academic Year

Inaugural event – February 2016
The Thomas More University Institute for Religious Liberty, in partnership with Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, held an Inaugural Event on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, at the Connor Convocation Center on the Thomas More University Crestview Hills campus at 7 p.m. in the evening. The event featured two religious thought leaders: U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom Rabbi David Saperstein, and Archbishop of Louisville and the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops the Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D. While in attendance at this event, Michael Galligan-Stierle, Ph.D., President/CEO of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, commented that, “of the nearly 1,000 scholarly centers and institutes at Catholic universities, some of which look at religion and politics or religion and law, Thomas More College is the only one I know of with a clear and sharp focus on religious liberty.” For photos from this event, please click here.

2016-17 Academic Year

Academic Symposium – February 2017
On Friday, Feb. 17, the IRL presented Joshua Charles, author of the book Liberty’s Secrets: The Lost Wisdom of America’s Founders, as the keynote speaker. Thomas More University’s own J.T. Spence, Ph.D., and Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D., of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., offered a commentary on Mr. Charles’ work after the keynote address.

Saturday, Feb. 18, the Symposium continued featuring a panel discussion on the crucial linkage between religious liberty and economic freedom, moderated by Joshua Charles. Kevin E. Schmiesing, Ph.D., a research fellow for the Acton Institute and well-known author on Catholic social thought and economics, was the keynote speaker on day two of the Symposium. Kevin Brown, Ph.D., Asbury University, Sister Mary Kay Kramer, CDP Thomas More University Alumna, and adjunct professor, and Brett Greenhalgh, President, Cincinnati Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints and founding member of the Institute for Religious Liberty’s Executive Committee served as commentators. For photos from this event, please click here.

2017-18 Academic Year

Religious Liberty: Common Origins an Interfaith Dialogue – November 2017
Wednesday evening, Nov. 8, the IRL hosted three distinguished scholars for an interfaith dialogue featuring the three Abrahamic traditions: Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim. Moderated by Dr. Catherine Sherron, Chairperson of the Philosophy Department at Thomas More, the speakers included Dr. Jeffrey Zalar, who holds the Ruth J. and Robert A. Conway Endowed Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Jonathan Cohen, Dean and Associate Professor of Talmud and Halakhic Literature at Hebrew Union College, and Dr. Waleed El-Ansary, University Chair of Islamic Studies, Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice at Xavier University.

Religious Liberty at a Crossroads – January 2018
On Wednesday, Jan. 24, the IRL presented “Religious Liberty at a Crossroads,” in honor of recently-deceased alumnus and member of the IRL Executive Committee, William T. Robinson III. This event emphasized recent Religious Liberty legal cases, in particular, the Little Sisters of the Poor Religious Liberty Case. The speakers included experts on all of the related cases from the older Hobby Lobby Case to the more recent Trinity Lutheran and Masterpiece Cake Cases. Dr. Kathleen Jagger VP for Academic Affairs and Dean of The College moderated the event which included Professor Kevin C. Walsh from the University of Richmond School of Law who was the original attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor; Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies for the Cato Institute and Editor-in-Chief for the Cato Supreme Court Review. He is also the co-author of Religious Liberties for Corporations? Hobby Lobby, the Affordable Care Act, and the Constitution, and Professor Frederick Gedicks who holds the Guy Anderson Chair, one of three endowed chairs at Brigham Young Law School. He is widely published on law and religion, constitutional law, and constitutional interpretation, including two books, The Rhetoric of Church and State: A Critical Analysis of Religion Clause Jurisprudence (Duke University Press, 1995), and Choosing the Dream: The Future of Religion in American Public Life (Greenwood Press, 1991) (with Roger Hendrix). For more information and photos of this event, please click here.

2018-19 Academic Year

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us – November 2018

On Thursday, November 15, 2018, the IRL featured Dr. David Campbell, Packey J. Dee Professor of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame, who described the results from the book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, co-authored by him and Robert Putnam. Commenting from their respective religious traditions were Rabbi Michael Danziger, Jolene Edmunds Rockwood from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Fr. Nicholas Rottman.

Religious Liberty: Our First, Most Cherished Liberty – February 2019

On Thursday, February 7, 2019, The Institute for Religious Liberty welcomed The Most Reverend William Edward Lori, S.T.D. 16th Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph. D. Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, a University Fellow, and Associate Professor of Political Science at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Archbishop Lori as the first head of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Dr. Hunter Baker, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Union University in Jackson, TN, and author of The Necessity of Courage in the Defense of Religious Liberty both shared their perceptions of the state of religious liberty in the last decade.  Click here to see pictures from the event.

Keynote Address from Archbishop William E. Lori: Interior & Exterior Freedom

Keynote Address from Hunter Baker: The Necessity of Courage in the Defense of Religious Liberty

Understanding Anti-Semitism–Then and Now – October 2019

On Wednesday, October 30, 2019, the William T. Robinson III Institute for Religious Liberty presented a fall interfaith program.

The title was “Explaining Anti-Semitism—Then and Now” and the keynote speaker was Michael A. Meyer, Ph.D., Adolph S. Ochs Professor of Jewish History at Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati campus. During the week of the first anniversary of the deadly attack on the Jewish community in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Dr. Meyer shared examples of anti-Semitic acts throughout history and discussed the multiple kinds of anti-Semitism, emphasizing the need for vigilance because anti-Semitic acts, dormant for a time, have once again returned with virulence as have many other hate crimes. He emphasized that the outbreak of hate is a challenge to all us. While we realize that there are many differences among us, religiously and otherwise, “beneath our differences is a common humanity.” The first of the two commentators was Todd Walatka, Ph.D., the interim director of the Masters of Divinity Program and associate professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Walatka’s expertise is in the ecclesiology of Vatican II, theology and racism and the relationships between Judaism and Christianity. He was followed by Shakila Ahmad, who has been the board chair and president of the Islamic Center for Greater Cincinnati (ICGC)—the first women to serve in this capacity at such an institution in the U.S. Well known in Greater Cincinnati interfaith circles, she has been recognized for building bridges in a troubled world. She currently serves on the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council made up of leaders across the country whose goals include strengthening federal legislation against hate crimes and fighting Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. A spirited discussion followed during the question and answer session.

The Institute for Religious Liberty is looking for partners to help advance its mission. For sponsorship information, please contact Institutional Advancement, at 859-344-3344 or advancement@thomasmore.edu