Summit for Religious Freedom reflections: Building an inclusive movement for religious freedom

  Summit for Religious Freedom reflections: Building an inclusive movement for religious freedom

By Leland Murphy

The 2024 Summit for Religious Freedom (SRF) was a truly enriching experience. As an AU Youth Organizing Fellow, I had the privilege of listening to a variety of speakers including advocacy leaders, academics, and political figures who share a passion for the separation of church and state. It was both enlightening and inspirational.

One of the highlights was hearing from Sanchi Rohira, a fellow youth advocate who won the David Norr Youth Activist Award. Sanchi has been making significant strides at Georgetown University to foster an environment that is inclusive of people from all religious backgrounds and those without religious affiliations.

Diversity at Summit for Religious Freedom encouraging

The diversity of the attendees was perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the summit. I met individuals from a wide range of faiths including Pagans, Hindus, Jews, Christians, atheists, and Muslims, as well as many others from various religious and nonreligious backgrounds. This diversity is crucial as it reflects the broad spectrum of American society, helping to bridge gaps across religious and other differences. It was particularly heartening to see many progressive Christians participating. Their presence is vital for challenging the influence of white Christian Nationalism in our society and politics.

Earlier this semester, I hosted a panel discussion on the harmful effects of a Texas bill that allows public schools to substitute chaplains for school counselors. The panel featured diverse voices such as Zo Qadri, the first Muslim South Asian member of the Austin City Council; Ash Hall, a prominent queer activist who works for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas; and Rick McClatchy, a Baptist and President of AU’s San Antonio Chapter. The event drew a diverse group of students and community members, highlighting the widespread interest in inclusive religious freedom.

As a Resident Assistant at the University of Texas at Austin, I also had a meaningful interaction with one of my former residents, a practicing Jew, who expressed his appreciation for the panel. His interest and gratitude for such discussions emphasize the importance of our work.

Students and young people enthusiastic about church-state separation

At events like my panel at UT Austin and the Summit for Religious Freedom, the enthusiasm among people, especially students and younger Americans, for preserving church-state separation and fostering a more inclusive America is palpable. By continuing to nurture this diverse, multiracial, multi-religious movement, we can effectively counter the rise of white Christian Nationalism and religious extremism.

Leland Murphy (he/him) is a member of AU’s Youth Organizing Fellowship program and a student in the masters of public affairs program at UT Austin’s Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs.

Photo: Dane Sherman, Sanchi Rohira and Luke Fisher speak during the Youth Activism for Church-State Separation panel at the Summit for Religious Freedom. Ranen Miao, not pictured, was the fourth panelist.

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