Os Guinness and Furman President, Dr. Rod Smolla: Civility in the Public Square
March 27, 2012 | Furman University Chapel
In partnership with Mere Christianity Forum
On March 27, 2012, Dr. Os Guinness spoke at Furman Chapel in Greenville, SC with Furman University President Dr. Rod Smolla on civility in the public square. Os noted that each country has to define civility pertaining to its own society. To arrive at a proper understanding of civility in America, Os said it is necessary to go back to the views of the framers of the Constitution - and even as far back as Roger Williams, the Puritan minister, who was the first to advocate "soul freedom for all."
With the conviction of promoting freedom of conscience for all, the framers casted a vision for civility in American public life as being, what Os terms, a "civil public square", where all citizens are allowed to believe and act according to the dictates of their own conscience. This means that one should never feel pressured to "leave his religion at the door" before entering the public arena. Os held up the civil public square as the antidote to the two extremes: the "sacred public square" in which the state expresses preference to - or at worst, mandates - a particular religion for its citizens, and the "naked public square," where religious convictions and beliefs have no place in the public arena.
President Smolla shared his knowledge of several of the key Supreme Court cases that have set precedence on religious freedom in America. Through these cases, Dr. Smolla expressed the tension the Court faces in preserving and promoting pluralism while still maintaining a basic standard of morality in society. After all, the government must draw a line somewhere when it comes to religious liberty, for some religions are hostile to maintaining the kind of orderly society that the Constitution seeks to establish.
Speakers, Os Guinness, Civility, Event