There are few more honored rights in American history and the Christian tradition than freedom of conscience. While it isn’t specifically enumerated in the U.S. Constitution like free speech or the right to bear arms, freedom of conscience is a natural and fundamental right that undergirds the American experiment.
This week, Grove City College hosts “Most Sacred: Freedom of Conscience in America,” a two-day conference that explores this right – and the threats that it faces in today’s social and political environment. The conference runs Thursday, April 4 and Friday, April 5 on campus. Registration is required.
Organized by the Center for Vision & Values, the College’s faith and freedom think tank, the conference features dozens of speakers, including nationally known activists, academics and thought leaders, along with experts from Grove City College’s faculty.
Among them will be Grove City College President Paul J. McNulty ’80, who will discuss “A Clear Conscience and the Common Good: Respecting the Rights of Conscience in a Free Society” at 1 p.m. Friday, April 5 in Sticht Lecture Hall of the Hall of Arts and Letters on campus. McNulty’s extensive legal and political experience provide a unique perspective on the issues surrounding freedom of conscience. Before becoming the College’s ninth president in 2014, McNulty served as Deputy U.S. Attorney General during the administration of President George W. Bush, was a top staff attorney in Congress and led the global corporate compliance and investigations practice for Baker McKenzie, one of the world’s largest law firms.
The conference also features:
- A discussion of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case with Kristen Waggoner, the attorney who took the conscience case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won.
- A keynote address by Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation and founder and editor-in-chief of Public Discourse, about the use – and abuse —of anti-discrimination laws.
- Commentary by David French, a senior writer at National Review, Constitutional lawyer, veteran and eloquent defender of civility and decency in the modern age.
- A lecture by Colleen Sheehan, a professor of politics and co-director of the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good at Villanova University, on the founding fathers conception of freedom.
- A live broadcast and lunchtime speech by Michael Medved, nationally syndicated radio talk show host and renowned film critic.
Freedom of conscience was so highly valued by the nation’s founders that James Madison insisted that an individual’s conscience was a possession “more sacred than his castle.” Just as one has the right to property, he argued, one has the right to conscience, which the state should not infringe upon.
This freedom has been invoked over the centuries by people opposed to war, public policies and social stratification, including Quakers and Mennonites, Sgt. Alvin York and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali and Rosa Parks, and more recently, Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor. Once revered as a bulwark against an oppressive state, it is now being challenged and redefined.
“Most Sacred: Freedom of Conscience in America” will provide a much-needed examination of the those challenges and offer time- and truth-tested responses from the great minds at Grove City College and guests who share the College’s commitment to advancing faith and freedom.
For more about the conference, visit www.mostsacred.org. For more about the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College, visit www.visionandvalues.org.