Join Us for Our Final Conference!

Religion, Secularity, and Public Life After Charlottesville

A Conference at the University of Virginia

Hosted by the Religion and Its Publics Project
Thursday, September 22 – Saturday, September 24


This conference seeks to grapple with the past history, present challenges, and future prospects for religion and public life in the United States. The questions raised by this conference come in light of the struggle over the nation’s increasing pluralism, including debates about secularity, identity, systemic inequalities, and narrations of history in relation to the present. Following closely on the fifth year anniversary of the event, the aim of the conference is shaped by the infamous “Unite the Right” rally that occurred in Charlottesville in August 2017 – an event with tragic and lingering consequences. In hindsight, Charlottesville now appears as the beginning of an era in which much of what we took for granted as clear and fixed has become more and more unstable. In a way that cuts to the heart of our project’s basic concerns, we wish to ask: How did we get to Charlottesville? And how were more recent incidents of terror and national turmoil shaped by or rooted in the same forces as Charlottesville? Each panel is geared toward a specific concentration of topics that offers an opportunity for critical and creative engagement with the challenges facing religious and public actors in an increasingly complex socio-political landscape.


Tim Kaine has represented the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States Senate since 2013. Before his time in the Senate, he served as both lieutenant governor of Virginia (2002–2006) and governor of Virginia (2006–2010). He was chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2009–2011 and the Democratic Party’s candidate for Vice President in the 2016 presidential election, sharing the ticket with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He received his BA in economics from the University of Missouri and his JD from Harvard Law School. Among other awards, he has been honored with the Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities and the Virginia Council of Churches’ Faith in Action Award.

His keynote address will be given on Friday, September 23 at 11am in Old Cabell Hall.

Jennifer Herdt is Gilbert Stark Professor of Christian Ethics at Yale University Divinity School. She has published widely on virtue ethics, ethical formation, and political theology in the context of early modern and modern moral thought. Her most recent book, Assuming Responsibility: Ecstatic Eudaimonism and the Call to Live Well, was published this year by Oxford University Press. Her 2019 book Forming Humanity: Redeeming the German Bildung Tradition, was supported by a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Institute. One of her earlier books, Putting on Virtue: The Legacy of the Splendid Vices, was recognized as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2008.  In 2021, she served as the President of the Society of Christian Ethics. Under the auspices of a grant funded by the Templeton Foundation, she is now pursuing a project on “The Animality of Moral Agency: Theological Anthropology and the Pre-Reflective Elements of Ethical Life.”

Her keynote address, “Wandering Arameans: Peripatetic Reflections on Religion, Secularity, and Public Life,” will be given on Thursday, September 22 at 5pm in Nau Hall (101).


The conference panels are designed to spark conversation, engaging both panelists and audience in a dialogue with the goal of opening up new avenues of thinking about religion’s role in contemporary issues and public debate. Each of the panelists will present a ten-minute “briefing” about pertinent issues or questions emerging from their topics, which will serve as primers for the conversation. Panels will take place on Friday in Small Library and on Saturday morning in the Rotunda.

The Blood, Race, and Ethnicity panel will explore religion in relation to ethnic and racial identities, whiteness, and immigration in the United States.

Time: Friday, 9:00am–10:30am

Location: Small Library Auditorium


Slavica Jakelić

Slavica Jakelić is the Richard P. Baepler Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Valparaiso University. Her scholarly interests and publications center on religion and nationalism, religious and secular humanisms, theories of religion and secularism, theories of modernity, and interreligious conflict and dialogue. Jakelić has worked at or was a fellow of a number of interdisciplinary institutes. She is a Senior Fellow of the national project “Religion and Its Publics at the University of Virginia, where she was a faculty member and co-director at the UVA’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. Jakelić has co-edited three volumes and is the author of Collectivistic Religions. She is currently working on two books, Pluralizing Humanism and Ethical Nationalisms


Damon Berry

Damon T. Berry is Associate Professor in the Religious Studies Department at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. He specializes in the study of race, religion, and politics in the U.S. and has published in the Journal of Hate Studies, Religion & Politics, Security Journal, and Nova Religio. He has also published two books, Blood & Faith: Christianity in American White Nationalism and Christianity & The Alt-Right: Exploring the Relationship. His third book, which focuses on evangelical Christian support for Trump, is to be published by Bloomsbury in 2023.

Gastón E. Espinosa

Gastón E. Espinosa is the Arthur V. Stoughton Professor of Religious Studies at Claremont McKenna College. He has graduate degrees from Princeton Seminary, Harvard University, and UC Santa Barbara and is the author/editor of nine books, including Latino Religions and Civic Activism in the United States; Mexican American Religions: Spirituality, Activism & Culture; and Religion, Race, and the American Presidency. He directed four national surveys on Latino religions and politics and is finishing Latino Religions and Politics in American Public Life. He served as two-term President of La Comunidad of Hispanic Scholars of Religion at the American Academy of Religion and is Co-Editor of The Columbia University Press Series in Religion and Politics.

Marla Frederick

Marla Frederick is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Religion and Culture at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. She is the author and/or co-author of four books and several articles including Between Sundays: Black Women and Everyday Struggles of Faith and Colored Television: American Religion Gone Global, ethnographic studies that examine issues at the intersections of race, religion, activism and media. She is currently working on a project that explores the work of religious institutions in the founding of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Frederick has served in numerous capacities, including as President of the Association of Black Anthropologists and most recently as president of the American Academy of Religion. 

Eugene Rogers

Eugene Rogers is Professor of Religious Studies at UNC Greensboro. Educated at Princeton, Tübingen, Rome, and Yale, Rogers taught from 1993 to 2005 at the University of Virginia. In 2002, Rogers was the Eli Lilly Visiting Associate Professor of Christian Thought and Practice in the Religion Department at Princeton University. In 2010, Christian Century named his book Sexuality and the Christian Body “essential reading” among books published in the past 25 years. In 2013, he sat on the Board of Electors for the Regius Professorship of Divinity at Cambridge. He is bringing out two books in 2021: Blood Theology: Seeing Red in Body- and God-Talk and Elements of Christian Thought.

The Sex, Sexuality, and Gender panel will explore religion in relation to gender, sexuality, and the family in the United States.

Time: Friday, 2pm–3:30pm

Location: Small Library Auditorium


Nichole Flores

Nichole Flores is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Health, Ethics, and Society minor at the University of Virginia. She is author of The Aesthetics of Solidarity: Our Lady of Guadalupe and American Democracy. She is a contributing author on the masthead at America: The Jesuit Review of Faith & CultureIn 2015, Flores was honored with the Catherine Mowry LaCugna Award for best essay in academic theology by a junior scholar from the Catholic Theological Society of America. Flores earned an AB in government from Smith College, an MDiv from Yale University, and a PhD in theological ethics from Boston College


Fannie Bialek

Fannie Bialek is Assistant Professor of Religion and Politics at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. Her work focuses on contemporary religious and philosophical approaches to interpersonal relationships marked by love, justice, and care, or their absence. She is currently finishing her first book, Love in Time, which argues for a consideration of love as a relationship of uncertainty instructive for vulnerabilities in interpersonal relationships and political life. Her second book will be on Abraham Joshua Heschel and radical democratic politics. Bialek earned a PhD in Religion and Critical Thought from Brown University, where she then taught as a Visiting Assistant Professor before moving to Washington University in the fall of 2016.

Karen Guth

Karen V. Guth is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her areas of specialization include Christian social ethics, public and political theology, and feminist ethics and theologies. She is the author of The Ethics of Tainted Legacies: Human Flourishing after Traumatic Pasts and Christian Ethics at the Boundary: Feminism and Theologies of Public Life. She holds a PhD in Religious Ethics from the University of Virginia, an MTS in Religion and Society from Harvard, an MTh in Literature, Theology, and the Arts from the University of Glasgow, and a BA in Religion from Furman University. 

Ludger Viefhues-Bailey

Ludger Viefhues-Bailey is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Gender, and Culture at Le Moyne College. His work integrates philosophical modes of analysis with those pertaining to gender and cultural studies. He is the author of Between a Man and a Woman? Why Conservatives Oppose Same-Sex Marriage and Beyond the Philosopher’s Fear. A Cavellian Reading of Gender, Origin, and Religion in Modern Skepticism. Currently he is working on a book entitled No Separation. How Religion Makes the Secular Nation State. He is a member of the editorial board of the journal Political Theology and of the Steering Committee of the CNY Religion Consortium. He holds an MDiv from the Philosophisch Theologische Hochschule St. Georgen (Frankfurt/Main) and an MA and PhD from Harvard University.

Lauren Winner

Lauren Winner is Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity School. She writes and lectures widely on Christian practice, the history of Christianity in America, and Jewish-Christian relations. Her books include Girl Meets God, Mudhouse Sabbath, A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, Wearing God, and most recently, The Dangers of Christian Practice. She has appeared on PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly and has served as a commentator on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” She has written for The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post Book World, Publishers Weekly, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today, and her essays have been included in several volumes of The Best Christian Writing. Winner, an Episcopal priest, is vicar of St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Durham, N.C.

The Religion in the Anthropocene panel will explore religion in the Anthropocene, including issues of climate, global capitalism, and natural resource sharing and consumption.

Time: Friday, 4pm–5:30pm

Location: Courtyard Marriott, Albemarle Room


Paul Dafydd Jones


David Clough

David L. Clough is Chair in Theology and Applied Sciences at the University of Aberdeen. His work has ranged from Karl Barth’s ethics to Christian pacifism and for the last 15 years has focused on the place of animals in Christian theology and ethics, culminating in the two-volume monograph On Animals (2012, 2019). He is a former President of the British Society for the Study of Christian Ethics and is currently President of the Society for the Study of Theology. He is committed to engaging a public audience beyond the academy. In 2015, he co-founded the US non-profit CreatureKind, which works to engage Christians with farmed animal welfare. In 2018, he became Principal Investigator for a research project on the Christian Ethics of Farmed Animal Welfare in partnership with major UK churches and a range of non-profit organisations.

Darren Dochuk

Darren Dochuk is Andrew V. Tackes College Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. He has written extensively on religion and politics in US history, with particular interest in evangelicalism, the Sunbelt region, and the rise of the Republican Right. Building on his most recent book, Anointed With Oil: How Christianity and Crude Made Modern America, his current research focuses on the intersections of energy, environment, and religion in modern America and global contexts.    

Justene Hill Edwards

Justene Hill Edwards is Associate Professor in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia. A historian of the African American experience, her scholarship investigates slavery’s role in the long history of economic inequality in America, focusing on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is the author of Unfree Markets: The Slaves’ Economy and the Rise of Capitalism in South Carolina, which explores the economic lives of enslaved people, not as property, but as active participants in their local economies. A Class of 2022 Carnegie Fellow, Hill Edwards is writing a book on the history of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company.

Robin Veldman

Robin Veldman is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Texas A&M University. Her research examines how religious beliefs and cultural identity shape attitudes toward the natural world, with a focus on climate change in the United States. Her books include the co-edited volume How the World’s Religions are Responding to Climate Change and The Gospel of Climate Skepticism: Why Evangelical Christians Oppose Action on Climate Change. She is currently working on a new project exploring the environmental politics of Christian nationalism. 

The Nones: Individual Belief and Religious Institutions in a Post-Secular Age panel will explore religion and the secular, particularly in relation to the growth of the “spiritual but not religious” or religiously unaffiliated population of the United States.

Time: Saturday, 9:15am–10:45am

Location: Rotunda Dome Room


Ted Smith

Ted Smith is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Divinity and Associate Dean of Faculty at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. At Emory he has an additional affiliation with the Center for the Study of Law and Religion. He also serves as director of the Theological Education between the Times project, which gathers diverse groups of people for critical, theological reflection on the meanings and purposes of theological education.


Ruth Braunstein

Ruth Braunstein is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut and Director of the Meanings of Democracy Lab. A multiple award-winning cultural sociologist interested in the role of religion and morality in American political life, she is the author of Prophets and Patriots: Faith in Democracy Across the Political Divide, co-editor of Religion and Progressive Activism, and is working on a new book tentatively titled, My Tax Dollars: The Sacred Taxpayer and the Almighty Dollar. She is an Associate Editor of Sociology of Religion, served for several years on the inaugural editorial board of The Immanent Frame, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute). 

Matthew Engelke

Matthew Engelke is Professor in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, where he also directs the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life. He is the author of three books, including most recently How to Think Like an Anthropologist. He mostly writes about Christianity and secular humanism, especially in relation to ritual, public culture, media, and materiality. 

Vincent Lloyd

Vincent Lloyd is Professor and Director of the Center for Political Theology at Villanova. He is the author of, most recently, Black Dignity: The Struggle Against Domination and co-author of Break Every Yoke: Religion, Justice, and the Abolition of Prisons. He is co-editor of the journal Political Theology.  Lloyd has been a visiting fellow at Notre Dame, Emory, Durham, and University of Virginia.

The Guns, Politics, Nation, and Citizenship panel will explore religion in relation to politics, citizenship, and the nation.

Time: Saturday, 11:15am–12:45pm

Location: Rotunda Dome Room


Charles Mathewes


Aristotle Papanikolaou

Aristotle Papanikolaou is Professor of Theology, the Archbishop Demetrios Chair of Orthodox Theology and Culture, and the Co-Director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University. He is the author of Being with God: Trinity, Apophaticism, and Divine-Human Communion, and The Mystical as Political: Democracy and Non-Radical Orthodoxy. He is co-editor of Political Theologies in Orthodox ChristianityFundamentalism or Tradition: Christianity after SecularismChristianity, Democracy and the Shadow of Constantine, Orthodox Constructions of the West, Orthodox Readings of Augustine, and Thinking Through Faith: New Perspectives from Orthodox Christian Scholars.

Rubén Rosario-Rodríguez

The Rev. Dr. Rubén Rosario Rodríguez, a graduate of Union Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary, holds the Clarence Louis and Helen Steber Professorship in Theological Studies at Saint Louis University. Recent publications include Dogmatics After Babel: Beyond the Theologies of Word and Culture and the T&T Clark Handbook of Political Theology. Rosario engages issues of global migration and social justice as Director of the Mev Puleo Program in Latin American Politics, Theology, and Culture at Saint Louis University, and through advocacy work with Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he currently serves as moderator for the Commission on Preparation for Ministry in the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy.

Corey D. B. Walker

Corey D. B. Walker is the Wake Forest Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English and the Interdisciplinary Humanities Program and inaugural Director of the Program in African American Studies at Wake Forest University. His research and teaching interests span the areas of Africana philosophy, critical theory, ethics, and religion and American public life. Walker is author and editor of several books and has published over sixty articles, essays, and book chapters in a wide variety of scholarly journals and publications. He is currently completing his next book, Disciple of Nonviolence: Wyatt Tee Walker and the Struggle for the Soul of Democracy.

Roundtable: On the 2017 White Supremacist Attacks on Charlottesville and Their Aftermath

Featuring Current and Former Charlottesville Leaders and Activists

This roundtable will focus on the run-up to and aftermath of the events of August 11 and
12, 2017. It will pay particular attention to religious and political dimensions of debates over
statues that foreground the Confederacy, the threat of white supremacy, and far-right
extremism; the fraught relationship between the University of Virginia and communities of color in Charlottesville; and the promise and risks associated with religious activism in the public sphere. What did A11 and A12 mean for religious and public life in Charlottesville and the nation in 2017? And what do they mean today?

Date: Friday, September 23

Time: 7:30pm–8:30pm

Location: Minor Hall

Roundtable Participants:

Sally Hudson

Delegate Sally Hudson serves Charlottesville and Albemarle in the Virginia House. Elected in 2019, she is the first woman to serve in this seat. As a freshman Delegate, Sally helped lead the team of legislators that secured the right of all Virginia local governments to remove Confederate monuments from their public spaces. When she’s not serving in Richmond, Sally teaches economics and statistics in the School of Public Policy at UVA. 

Jalane Schmidt

Jalane Schmidt is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at UVA. Her research and teaching is focused upon African diaspora religions of the Caribbean and Latin America, particularly festivity and ritual. She teaches courses which consider the effects of colonization and the slave trade upon religious practice in the Americas. In her book project on 20th c. Cubans’ devotion to their patron saint, she examines religious, racial, and cultural hybridity in the Americas by interpreting the national expansion of this popular cult. In her emerging research, she investigates how the history of slavery is performed in spirit possession rituals and expressed in material culture.

Brandy Daniels

Brandy Daniels is Assistant Professor of Theology and Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Portland. She has published numerous articles on topics ranging from Bonhoeffer and Foucault on racial identity, to poststructuralism and liberation theology, to Eastern Orthodox apophatic theology and Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. She is working on her first monograph, entitled How (Not) to Be Christian. Daniels co-chairs the Queer Studies in Religion unit of the AAR, the LGBTQIA+ Working Group of the SCE, and is on the executive committee for the Political Theology Network. She is an ordained Disciples of Christ minister and a part of Portland Interfaith Clergy Resistance.

Larycia Hawkins

Larycia Hawkins, PhD, is a scholar, a political science professor, and an activist. Professor Hawkins teaches and researches at the University of Virginia, where she is jointly appointed in the departments of Politics and Religious Studies. She also serves as a Faculty Collaborator at UVA’s Religion, Race, and Democracy Lab, as a Faculty Fellow at the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, is a Research Fellow at the Project on Lived Theology; and has been involved with Religion and Its Publics for several years.

Kristin Szakos

Kristin Layng Szakos is a writer, editor, and activist who served on Charlottesville City Council from 2010 through 2017. She has a degree in religious studies from Grinnell College and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A child of Civil Rights activists, she has been involved in racial and social justice work her whole life and was active in the work to remove Confederate monuments from Charlottesville and other Virginia communities. She is the co-author of two books about community organizing.

The Religion and Its Publics Project

The Project on Religion and Its Publics has been at work on the above and other issues for a number of years. Funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and housed in the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion and the Department of Religious Studies, the project undertakes both descriptive and normative modes of inquiry and convenes a wide array of scholars, practitioners, and graduate students. It aspires to model interdisciplinary scholarship in the context of a university and a city that have often found themselves at the intersection of concerns about publicity, pluralism, religion, and secularism. Concretely, the project has supported research initiatives on ecological justice, race and religion in Charlottesville, Christian theology and critical theory, and Islamic public theology; funded cutting-edge postdoctoral projects on Christian theology and the task of religious un/formation and on Islamic identity in London and Berlin; organized numerous meetings for emerging and established scholars; and hosted countless public talks, round tables, and workshops. This conference will serve as the culmination of the Project.

The Project’s Co-Directors

Charles Mathewes

Charles Mathewes is the Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Evil and the Augustinian TraditionA Theology of Public LifeUnderstanding Religious Ethics, and The Republic of Grace. Among other edited volumes, he was the Senior Editor for a four-volume collection on Comparative Religious Ethics: The Major Works for Routledge Publishers. From 2006 to 2010, he was Editor of The Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and was Chair of the Committee on the Future of Christian Ethics for the Society of Christian Ethics, the inaugural Director of the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion, and from 2010 to 2020 he served on the House of Bishops Theology Committee of the Episcopal Church. He is currently finishing his next book, A Future for Political Theology, and writing another work, Another City: Reading Augustine After Secularism.

Paul Dafydd Jones

Paul Dafydd Jones is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and Co-Director of the research project, “Religion and its Publics.” His scholarship and teaching focus on Christian thought, with particular interests in Protestant theology, western philosophy of religion, liberation theology, constructive theology, and religion in public life. In addition to numerous articles and chapters, he is the author of The Humanity of Christ: Christology in Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, the co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Karl Barth and the forthcoming Karl Barth and Liberation Theology, and the author of the soon-to-be-published Patience–A Theological Exploration: Part One, From Creation to Christ.