Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

September 6, 2005

Whitworth Professor to Present Sept. 14 Lecture, "The Constitution, Freedom of Religion, and the Future Supreme Court"

As the United States Supreme Court prepares to usher in a new era of leadership following the recent death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, Whitworth Professor of Political Studies Julia Stronks will lead a discussion about the Constitution, Supreme Court justices and the First Amendment. Stronks' lecture, "The Constitution, Freedom of Religion, and the Future Supreme Court," will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth College. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, please call (509) 777-3203.

Stronks' lecture is taking place in honor of the first federally recognized Constitution Day, a national celebration of the signing of the U.S. government's founding document, which was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, by the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, in Philadelphia, Pa. Legislation creating a federal Constitution Day was approved by Congress in 2004.

During the past year the Supreme Court handed down several important cases dealing with the freedom of religion and freedom of expression. With the recent death of Chief William Rehnquist, the retirement of Justice O'Connor and the possible retirements of other justices in the near future, Stronks will discuss in her lecture what is at stake in the area of religious freedom, and how the retirement of O'Connor - a pragmatist and a centrist - could change religious-freedom jurisprudence.

"The issue of religious freedom has been critical to the court, but there has been so much confusion about what government must do and what it must not do," Stronks says. "With O'Connor's retirement, much is up in the air because she was a key swing vote on a number of religious-expression and religious-establishment cases."

Drawing from her expertise on First Amendment jurisprudence, Stronks - who holds a Ph.D. in American government from the University of Maryland and a J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law - will discuss the framework of the Constitution with respect to the tension between the majority and the minority in the United States, will explain the religious-freedom clauses, and will discuss the current state of First Amendment jurisprudence. She'll also make some predictions about the future of the Supreme Court if nominee John Roberts is confirmed.

Stronks directs Whitworth's initiative to serve homeless youth in Spokane and the Lives of Commitment Program, funded by a $1 million grant from the M. J. Murdock Foundation. The Lives of Commitment Program provides courses, mentoring, guest lectures and other resources to help students connect their worldview convictions to the personal and professional decisions they make after graduation. Stronks is the author of the books Law, Religion and Public Policy: A Commentary on First Amendment Jurisprudence (Lexington Books, 2002) and Christian Teachers in Public Schools (Baker Books, 2000).

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,400 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.


Julia Stronks, professor of political studies, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4577 or jstronks@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information officer, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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