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The relationship between politics and religion has never been of more pressing importance than today. The events of September 11, 2001 dramatically highlighted within the U.S. the pertinence of religious forces in both national and global politics. In France, immigration from Muslim countries has generated major debates including a recent public inquiry on the century-old law separating the French state from the Catholic church and the introduction of a new law banning selected religious insignia in French public schools. In the U.S. too, the public education system has been a major battleground for religious forces while in both countries the position of Jewish and Muslim minorities is inextricably intertwined with transnational political issues, most notably in the Middle East. In these and other ways, adherents of diverse faiths – Christian, Jewish, Islamic and others – are highly visible in France, as in the U.S., both as objects of political discourse and as actors in the political arena. While the official discourse of both nations is that of secular republicanism, this is interpreted in very different ways on each side of the Atlantic. By adopting a comparative approach, this international conference aims to generate a better understanding of the interface between politics and religion in both France and America. What are the meanings of concepts such as “laicité” in France and “secularism” in the U.S. and to what extent are these changing? Do people of shared religious faiths living in different political systems display similar or divergent patterns of political behavior? In what ways are domestic political and religious agendas influenced by the international environment? Is globalization bringing a convergence between France and the U.S. or underscoring the differences in the political and religious cultures of the two countries? These are among the key questions addressed in this conference by leading researchers from both sides of the Atlantic.

The conference is open to the public free of charge. For planning purposes, please inform the Winthrop-King Institute if you plan to attend:


SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25 (Entrance to Diffenbaugh Building via Jefferson Street entrance)

2:30-3:00 pm Registration and Coffee
3:00 pm Welcome and opening remarks
3:15-4:45 pm Historical and constitutional frameworks
  • France: Rémy Schwartz (Conseil d’Etat, Paris)
  • United States: Jeremy Gunn (Emory University)
4:45-5:00 pm Coffee
5:00-6:30 pm Protestants
  • France : Sébastien Fath (CNRS, Paris)
  • United States: David Little (Harvard University)


8:30 am Registration and Coffee
9:00-10:30 am Catholics
  • France: Blandine Chelini-Pont (Université Paul Cézanne Aix-Marseille III)
  • United States: R. Scott Appleby (Notre Dame University)
10:30-11:00 am Coffee
11:00-12:30 pm Muslims
  • France: Catherine Wihtol de Wenden (CERI, Paris)
  • United States: Liyakat Takim (University of Denver)
12:30 pm Lunch
2:00 pm Jews
  • France: Michel Wieviorka (EHESS, Paris)
  • United States: Michael Berenbaum (University of Judaism)
3:30 pm Coffee
4:00 pm Current issues
  • France: Jean Baubérot (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris)
  • United States: Amanda Porterfield (Florida State University)
5:30 pm Close of conference

Notes on Speakers

R. Scott Appleby ( is Professor in the Department of History and Director of the Institute for Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame. He teaches courses in American religious history and comparative religious movements. From 1998-1993 he was co-director of the Fundamentalism Project. He is the author of The Ambivalence of the Sacred, as well as of Church and Age Unite! The Modernist Impulse in American Catholicism. He is also co-editor of Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America.

Jean Baubérot ( is Professor of the History and Sociology of Laïcité (i.e. the institutional separation of church and state) at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he was the founding Director of the Research Group on the Sociology of Religions and Laïcité from 1995 to 2002. His publications include Le protestantisme doit-il mourir? (Paris, Seuil, 1988), Histoire du protestantisme (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 5th edition, 1998), La morale laïque contre l’ordre moral (Paris, Seuil, 1997), Une haine oubliée: l’antiprotestantisme avant le pacte laïque, 1870-1905 (Paris: Albin Michel, 2000), La Laïcité, 1905-2005, entre passion et raison (Paris: Seuil, 2004) and Histoire de la laïcité en France (3rd edition, 2005).

Michael Berenbaum ( currently serves as Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute at the University of Judaism. Recently named Executive Editor of the New Encyclopedia Judaica, he was for three years President and Chief Executive Officer of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. From 1988-1993, Berenbaum served as Project Director of the United States Holocaust Museum. He is the author and editor of sixteen books and numerous articles. His most recent books include A Promise to Remember: The Holocaust in the Words and Voices of Its Survivors and After the Passion Has Passed: American Religious Consequences.

Blandine Chelini-Pont ( is Associate Professor in Contemporary History and a member of the Interdisciplinary Research Group on Law and Social Change at the Université Paul Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence, France. She teaches the history and geopolitics of religion as well as laïcité, law and religious observance in France. She directs the series on Law and Religion published by Presses Universitaires d’Aix-Marseille. She has published articles on the effects of globalization in Christianity and on the emergence of religious freedom as an international issue. Her books include Géopolitique du christianisme (Editions Ellipses, 2003) and, co-authored with Jeremy Gunn, Dieu en France et aux Etats-Unis (Berg International, 2005).

T. Jeremy Gunn is the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief (starting June 2005) and is the Senior Fellow for Religion and Human Rights at Emory University School of Law. He recently published, with Professor Blandine Chélini-Pont, Dieu en France et aux Etats-Unis: Quand les mythes font la loi (2005), which is a revised version of “Religious Freedom and Laïcité: A Comparison of the United States and France,” Brigham Young University Law Review (2004). He currently is writing and editing several publications on comparative law and is under contract (Praeger) to publish a book on religion and American foreign policy.

Sébastien Fath ( is currently a researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France. He lectures at the Sorbonne University (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes), and is in charge of a scientific research program on contemporary mutations of religion in Western societies. The author of ten books, he has recently published Dieu bénisse l’Amérique. La religion de la Maison Blanche (Paris: Seuil, 2004), Militants de la Bible aux Etats-Unis. Evangéliques et fondamentalistes du Sud (Paris: Autrement, 2004; awarded the Chateaubriand History Prize), and Du ghetto au réseau. Les protestants évangeliques en France 1800-2005 (Geneva: Labor et Fides, forthcoming).

David Little ( is T.J. Dermot Dunphy Professor of the Practice in Religion, Ethnicity and International Conflict at the Harvard Divinity School. He previously served as senior scholar at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., where he directed the Working Group on Religion, Ideology and Peace. From 1996-1998, he was on the State Department Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad. He is the author, with Scott W. Hibbard, of Islamic Activism and U.S. Foreign Policy, as well as other works.

Amanda Porterfield ( is Robert A. Spivey Professor of Religion at Florida State University. A historian of American religion interested in the interplay between religion and culture, she has written books on the New England Puritans, Protestant women missionaries in the 19th century, and the transformation of American religion after 1960. She also has wider interests in the history of Christianity and in the comparative study of world religions. She served as President of the American Society of Church History in 2001.

Rémy Schwartz is a member of the Council of State, the highest administrative court in France and a Consulting Professor at the Université de Versailles-Saint-Quentin. He heads the editorial committees of two law journals, Les cahiers de la fonction publique and the Bulletin juridique des contrats publics. A specialist on the fields of immigration, integration and laïcité (the body of principles governing the separation of church and state in France), he has served as the author of a report to the French Prime Minister on the creation of a National Immigration Museum, as rapporteur général for the High Council on Integration and as rapporteur général of the report produced by the Stasi Commission, appointed by President Chirac in 2003 to review and make recommendations for revising the code of laïcité.

Liyakat Takim ( teaches a wide range of courses on Islam in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Denver. A native of Zanzibar, Tanzania, he has published over 30 articles/entries in various journals, books, and encyclopedias. In addition, Professor Takim has translated four books and has a book on The Heirs of the Prophet: Charisma and Religious Authority in Islam forthcoming with SUNY press. He is currently translating volume four of ‘Allama Tabatabai’s voluminous exegesis of the Qur’an. Professor Takim has taught in American and Canadian universities and has lectured in various parts of the world. A well-respected scholar in the Muslim community, his current research examines reformation of Islamic law in contemporary times. He is also writing on Shi‘ism in the American Context.

Michel Wieviorka ( is Professor of Sociology at the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales in Paris, where he directs the CADIS (Centre d’analyse et d'intervention sociologiques). He is a member of the Executive Committee the International Social Science Council and of the International Sociological Association and editor of the Cahiers internationaux de Sociologie. His publications in English include The Arena of Racism (Sage, 1993) and The Making of Terrorism (University of Chicago Press, new edition, 2004). He has recently published the findings of a major study on anti-Semitism in France, La tentation anti-sémite (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2005).

Catherine Wihtol de Wenden ( is a Senior Research Fellow at the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) based in the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales in Paris. A specialist on international migration with particular reference to France and Europe, she has served a consultant to the Council of Europe, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the European Commission. Her publications include L’immigration en Europe (La Documentation française, 1999), La citoyenneté européenne (Presses de Sciences Po, 1997), La beurgeoisie (with Rémy Leveau, CNRS Editions, 2001), Police et discriminations (with Sophie Body-Gendrot, L’Atelier, 2003) and Atlas des migrations dans le monde (Autrement, 2005)>

Conference directors
Dr. Alec G. Hargreaves (Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies),
Dr John Kelsay (Department of Religion), Dr Sumner B. Twiss (Department of Religion and Center for the Advancement of Human Rights)

For more information contact:
Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306-1515. Telephone 850.644.7636 Fax 850.644.9917 E-mail Website 

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