Hundreds attend Religious Freedom Symposium

Rabbi Michael A. Davis, left, was a panelist at the symposium. With him, from left, are Brian L. Rawson, Steven T. Collis, and Bishop Carl A. Kemme. (Advance photo)


About 450 people attended a Religious Freedom Symposium Wednesday evening, Sept. 11, at Wichita State University’s Eugene M. Hughes Metropolitan Complex.

A panel of experts and religious leaders made presentations and discussed a variety of topics related to religious freedom.

Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, introduced the speakers and panelists before talking about the history of religious freedom, especially the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

He mentioned two cases, one about a family who wanted to home-school rather than send their children to a public school, and a second about the right to be free from religion. Religious liberty is not bigotry and it’s not unjust discrimination, Weber said. “It’s a right that makes our nation strong.”

Steven Collis, a research fellow at Stanford Law School, talked about misunderstandings regarding religious freedom. The founders of the country came up with two pillars regarding religious freedom, he said: no state church, and no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. “These two clauses work together for religious freedom.”

State Rep. Stephen Owens, of the 74th House District, talked about how laws in Kansas are protecting free speech and religious expression. He added that those freedoms were apparent during the most recent legislative session when huge banners were displayed and large numbers of leaflets were distributed.

Owens also spoke about the Adoption Protection Act, which protects faith-based adoption agencies from going against their beliefs. He also mentioned how much prayer is utilized by senators and representatives at the state Capitol.

“We have some great state laws in Kansas,” he said, “however, the current political climate isn’t reassuring.”

He ended by asking those attending to be informed and to never let their voices be silenced or actions hindered. “Never let your vote go unused,” Owens said.

Collis was one of the panelists who answered a variety of questions. Also on the panel were the Most Rev. Carl A. Kemme, bishop of the Diocese of Wichita; Brian Rawson, area authority from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Rabbi Michael A. Davis from the Congregation Emanu-El.

The event was sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Wichita and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.