Register

Register Now

Tickets»

Conference Trailer

Most Sacred: Freedom of Conscience in America

William Penn There are few more honored rights in American history and the Christian tradition than freedom of conscience. One of our most revered Founding Fathers, James Madison, insisted that an individual’s conscience was a possession “more sacred than his castle.” Just as one has the right to property, one has the right to conscience, which the state should not infringe upon. It is a natural right and a fundamental right. Madison said that “all men are entitled to the full and free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.” He argued for inclusion of freedom of conscience in the Bill of Rights. He made that argument in Philadelphia—that is, in the state of Pennsylvania, where another founder, William Penn, a century earlier had implemented a historic Act for Freedom of Conscience.

Court This freedom has served America so admirably for centuries, from conscientious objectors in World Wars I and II to the Vietnam War, from the appeals of citizens as diverse as the Quakers, Mennonites, Sergeant Alvin York, Desmond Doss, Muhammad Ali, the Berrigan brothers, and Martin Luther King Jr. Today, it is appealed to by the likes of Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Kim Davis, and court cases such as Arlene’s Flowers v. the State of Washington, Zubik v. Burwell, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. One leading scholar, Professor Robert George, speaks of Conscience and Its Enemies. Two centuries ago, Cardinal John Henry Newman spoke of the rising tide of “conscience and its counterfeits”—that is, the increasingly common view (even in the 19th century) of conscience as something devoid of any duty to anything outside itself.

Such is not the Christian conception of conscience. And it is this tide that threatens us today. It’s a great irony that progressives who once championed conscientious objection for the “draft-dodger” in Vietnam now spurn it (in the name of “tolerance”) for the Baptist baker in Washington state.

Our onetime precious consensus on conscience is being challenged unlike ever before, and redefined unlike ever before. Professor Colleen Sheehan writes:

Today, when most Americans think about conscience, they do not include the Supreme Judge of the World, the Moral Governor of the Universe, or even a standard of natural justice, as Jefferson did in the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, or as Madison did in the “Memorial and Remonstrance.” The appeal to conscience today tends to have nothing to do with a sense of duty to God or acting in accordance with a higher law. Rather, when people today talk about conscience, they tend to mean something like—as Wikipedia puts it—a “gut feeling” or “vague sense of guilt.” People consider themselves answerable only to their autonomous self, to their own feelings and personal opinions, whatever they might be and however they may have acquired them.

And so, what is freedom of conscience properly understood? What is the tradition of conscientious objection, not just to Americans specifically but to Christians generally? What are its roots and applications from Biblical times to modern times? Who are its earliest martyrs and modern warriors? Which cases stand out and speak to us? Who have been the influential thinkers, theologians, writers, proponents? Why is this a freedom worth preserving? And above all, how should we at Grove City College—an institution dedicated to faith and freedom, to the foundations of a faithful and free society, and to the mission of forming the very consciences of our students—respond to threats to freedom of conscience in today’s chaotic culture?

Speakers

Schedule

Thursday, April 4, 2019

10:00–11:00
Hall of Arts and Letters / Sticht Lecture Hall

“Our First Freedoms” by Dr. Colleen Sheehan, co-director of the Matthew J. Ryan Center for the Study of Free Institutions and the Public Good at Villanova University.

11:30–12:45
Lunch in Rathburn Hall | Morledge Great Room
(for those who register for meals)

“Feelings Over Faith: How Hollywood Shifted the American Imperative From ‘Do Your Duty’ to ‘Follow Your Heart’” by Michael Medved, nationally syndicated radio talk show host, best-selling author, and veteran film critic.

1:00–2:15
Hall of Arts and Letters / Sticht Lecture Hall

“A Cakeshop, Florist, Pharmacy and More: The Court on Freedom of Conscience,” an Interview with Mrs. Kristen Waggoner by Dr. John Sparks. Mrs. Waggoner serves as senior vice president of U.S. legal division and communications with Alliance Defending Freedom.

Simultaneous lecture
Pew Fine Arts Center / Recital Hall

“Defending Conscience: A Necessary Condition for Humanity” by Dr. Marvin Folkertsma and Dr. Mark Hendrickson.

2:30–3:45
Hall of Arts and Letters / Sticht Lecture Hall

“Martin Luther and Sir Thomas More: Cases of Conscience” by Dr. Carl Trueman.

Simultaneous lecture
Pew Fine Arts Center / Recital Hall

“What is Liberty? The Role of Family and Community” by Dr. T. David Gordon and Mrs. Cynthia Marsch.

3:00–6:00
Breen Student Union / Great Room, 2nd Floor

“The Michael Medved Show” — radio show by Michael Medved.

5:15–6:30
Dinner in Rathburn Hall | Morledge Great Room
(for those who register for meals)

“Civility Isn’t Surrender: A Defense of Decency in the Modern Age” by Mr. David French, senior writer for National Review and senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

7:00–8:00
Hall of Arts and Letters / Sticht Lecture Hall

“Not Every Disagreement is Discrimination: On the Uses—and Abuses—of Anti-Discrimination Policy” featuring Dr. Ryan Anderson, the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, and the founder and editor-in-chief of “Public Discourse.”

Friday, April 5, 2019

9:00–9:50
Hall of Arts and Letters / Sticht Lecture Hall

“Roger Williams, William Penn and Liberty of Conscience” by Dr. Gary S. Smith.

Simultaneous lecture
Pew Fine Arts Center / Recital Hall

“Conscience: Private or Public” by Dr. Caleb Verbois and Mr. Lewis Waha.

10:00–10:50
Hall of Arts and Letters / Sticht Lecture Hall

“Evangelicals and Catholics Together on Conscience?” by Dr. Paul Kemeny and Dr. Michael Coulter.

Simultaneous lecture
Pew Fine Arts Center / Recital Hall

“Exercise of Conscience in Science and Socialized Healthcare” by Dr. Glenn Marsch and Mr. Richard Kocur.

11:30–12:45
Lunch in Rathburn Hall | Morledge Great Room
(for those who register for meals)

“The Conscience Call: Sophie Scholl and the White Rose” by Dr. Kimberly Miller.

1:00–1:50
Hall of Arts and Letters / Sticht Lecture Hall

“A Clear Conscience and the Common Good: Respecting the Rights of Conscience in a Free Society” by Honorable Paul J. McNulty, president of Grove City College.

2:00–2:50
Hall of Arts and Letters / Sticht Lecture Hall

“Conscience in Literature” by Dr. David Hogsette and Dr. Joshua Mayo.

Simultaneous lecture
Hall of Arts and Letters / Room 116

“Christianity and Conscience: Two Case Studies of Influential Texts” by Dr. Eric Potter and Dr. Kristen Waha.

3:00–3:50
Hall of Arts and Letters / Sticht Lecture Hall

“Conscience and the Reformation of the Church” by Dr. Michelle McFeaters and Dr. Andrew Harvey.

Simultaneous lecture
Hall of Arts and Letters / Room 110

“Conscientious Objectors in the 20 th Century” by Dr. Andrew Mitchell and Dr. Robert Clemm.

5:15–6:30
Dinner in Rathburn Hall | Morledge Great Room
(for those who register for meals)

“Kim Davis and Martin Luther King Jr.: An Appeal to Conscience” by Dr. Paul Kengor.