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Volume 79

Church/state separation focus of forum on November 7

Published (Volume 79, No. 10)


David Barber

If you would care to weigh in on the issue of separation of church and state, then plan to spend your Election Day evening with the UTM History Club.

The club is sponsoring a debate at 7 tonight in the Humanities Auditorium. The debate will address such questions as: Should there be a separation of church and state in the United States? Should prayer in schools be illegal? and Should “God” be taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance and off U.S. money? Time will also be allowed at the end of the debate for taking questions from the audience.

Dr. David Barber, assistant professor of History, said the History Club discussed a number of possibilities for a debate topic, but the students agreed that separation of church and state was an extremely important and timely topic.

“We agreed that issues of church and state are national issues, with controversies around prayer in school and teaching of evolution, etc., continually making the news,” Barber said in an e-mail to The Pacer. “So we wanted to address this question.”

Ryan Barnes, a senior History major from Milan, will moderate the debate. Panelists for the discussion of separation of church and state include Dr. Dawood Sultan, assistant professor of Sociology, and Hannah Clawson, a senior Psychology major from Arlington. Dr. John Schommer, associate professor of Mathematics, and head baseball coach and Math instructor Victor “Bubba” Cates will speak for a greater platform for religion in schools, Barber said.

The History Club did not deliberately schedule the forum for Election Day, Barber said, but merely needed to plan the event for an available Tuesday or Thursday evening. However, given the prevalence of attack ads leading into today’s election process, Barber said he believes it’s time for serious discussions.

“I’d like to see more people on this campus engage in a forthright and open manner about national issues. A democracy cannot work in the absence of principled debate and discussion. Right now we have attack ads, and sound bites, and a lot of entertainment, but very little serious discussion of important issues. Frankly, I don’t see many political leaders attempting to change that,” Barber said. 

“That being the case, it’s only going to be an informed citizenry that can create a more positive, democratic culture in the United States. So I’d like to contribute to that larger goal of helping to create an informed citizenry.”

The debate is open to the public.