Judge Michael McConnell Visits Bethel

May 4, 2012 | 7:58 a.m.

By Tricia Theurer, Communications and Marketing Specialist for University Relations

Judge Michael McConnell Visits Bethel

Judge McConnell addresses the audience at Bethel University.

Bethel University recently welcomed Judge Michael W. McConnell of the Stanford Law School, who spoke on “The Church and Politics: Guidance for 2012 from 1776.” The event was the second of three annual “Distinguished Lectures in the Humanities,” featuring visits from nationally known speakers. The lecture series is funded by the Apgar Foundation in conjunction with Bethel's humanities program.

McConnell has taught law at the University of Chicago, the University of Utah, Harvard, and Stanford. His publications in the Wall Street Journal, First Things, and elsewhere bring his legal acumen to a wider audience. McConnell served on the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals from 2002 to 2009. His law review articles and arguments before U.S. courts have provided the basis for “accommodation of religion” as a constitutional alternative to the strict “wall of separation” between church and state.

McConnell stressed that we often hear that the founders of America had in mind a secular society, where religion is moved to the private sphere without influencing our laws, public discussions, or culture more broadly. He asserted that this is not what the founders had in mind. Instead, the founders prevented Congress from establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion in order to promote religious liberty. They thought that as a modern, free people, we had a particular need for religion, since we had abandoned the social and moral supports of traditional societies. McConnell encouraged the audience to recover this deeper understanding and practice of a healthy religious liberty.

A reception followed the lecture, providing an opportunity for audience members to interact with McConnell, students, professors, and other guests. McConnell also spoke in Chapel the following day.

Says Dan Ritchie, professor of English and director of the humanities program, “Each speaker in the ‘Distinguished Lectures in the Humanities’ series has addressed subjects that are being studied in the program. One of our major purposes is to show humanities students that these subjects continue to command the attention of the most thoughtful and influential voices in our culture.” He continues, “By opening the invitation to others in the Twin Cities, we hope to indicate our willingness to engage in a broader, community wide discussion of these issues.”

On September 27, Bethel will welcome Gilbert Meilaender, who served on the President's Council on Bioethics, to speak on Aristotle.

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