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Religious Freedom Center
The Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum
invites you to attend a special webinar:
Religion, Public Health and COVID-19: Tips and Tools for Teaching about Religion Remotely
— Thursday, April 9, 2020 —

We have organized this rapid-response webinar to offer advice, historical context and collegial support for scholars impacted by the global pandemic. Educators face the unprecedented challenge of transitioning from in-person to virtual instruction in a matter of days – all while juggling care for children who are home from school, family or friends who may need medical attention and personal mental and physical health. We will discuss how scholars of religion can share research about religion and public health, teach about religion remotely with fair grading options, manage tenure processes and speak about religion and medicine with different publics.

We are pleased to host co-presenters including Lee H. Butler, distinguished service professor of theology and psychology at the Chicago Theological Seminary; Ellen Idler, director of Emory’s Religion and Public Health Collaborative; Pamela Klassen, professor in the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto; Doug Oman, associate adjunct professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley; and Phillis Isabella Sheppard, associate professor of religion, psychology and culture at Vanderbilt Divinity School. More panelists may be added. The webinar will include a presentation and extended Q&A.

Noon – 1 p.m., Eastern

Zoom videoconference room

Free and open to the public.
Registration required.


Panelists include:

Lee H. Butler Jr. is the distinguished service professor of theology and psychology at the Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS). A former director of the CTS Master of Divinity program, a former acting vice president for academic affairs and academic dean, and the founder of the Center for the Study of Black Faith and Life at CTS, his teaching and research interests are in the areas of Africana pastoral theology and the practice of ministry. He is the author of “Listen, My Son: Wisdom to Help African American Fathers” (2010), “Liberating Our Dignity, Saving Our Souls” (2006) and “A Loving Home: Caring for African American Marriage and Families” (2000). An ordained minister of the American Baptist Churches in the USA, he is a past president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion, a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society for Pastoral Theology and the Association of Black Psychologists.

Ellen Idler is the Samuel Candler Dobbs professor, Department of Sociology, and director of the Religion and Public Health Collaborative at Emory College of Arts and Sciences. Idler holds additional appointments at Emory at the Rollins School of Public Health, the Center for Ethics, the Graduate Division of Religion of Laney Graduate School and the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at the Emory School of Medicine. She taught at Rutgers University before her appointment at Emory in 2009. Dr. Idler is a Fellow and past chair of the behavioral and social sciences section of the Gerontological Society of America and she served as chair of the American Sociological Association’s section on aging and the life course. She studies the influence of attitudes, beliefs and social connections on health, including the effect of self-ratings of health on mortality and disability, and the impact of religious participation on health and the timing of death among the elderly.

Pamela Klassen is a professor in the department for the study of religion, cross-appointed to anthropology, at the University of Toronto. She teaches graduate and undergraduate students in areas of the anthropology and history of Christianity and colonialism in North America, religion in the public sphere and religion, law, media and gender. The author of many books and articles, her most recent solo publications are “The Story of Radio Mind: A Missionary’s Journey on Indigenous Land” and “Contraception and the Coming of Secularism: Reconsidering Reproductive Freedom as Religious Freedom” in “Secular Bodies, Affects and Emotions.” Her newest joint publications include “The Public Work of Christmas: Difference and Belonging in Multicultural Societies,” co-edited with Monique Scheer, and “Ekklesia: Three Inquiries in Church and State,” co-authored with Paul Christopher Johnson and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan. Her previous book, “Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing and Liberal Christianity,” won a 2012 American Academy of Religion Award of Excellence.

Doug Oman is associate adjunct professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 2001, primarily focusing on relationships between spirituality, religion and health. He currently directs Berkeley’s graduate training program on spirituality and public health, co-edits the open access Public Health, Religion and Spirituality Bulletin and recently published the book, “Why Religion and Spirituality Matter for Public Health: Evidence, Implications and Resources” (Springer International, 2018). Oman was 2016-2017 president of the Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (Division 36 of the American Psychological Association) and recipient of its 2018 William C. Bier award for integrating the psychology of religion/spirituality with other disciplines. His 100+ professional publications have ranged from epidemiologic studies of longevity to theoretical papers on learning from spiritual exemplars and he has led two randomized controlled trials of nonsectarian forms of spiritual meditation.

Phillis Isabella Sheppard is an associate professor of religion, psychology and culture at Vanderbilt Divinity School and the Graduate Department of Religion of Vanderbilt University. In “Self, Culture and Others in Womanist Practical Theology,” she argued for the necessity of fostering a psychoanalytic dimension to womanist approaches to practical theology. Her current book in progress, “Tilling Sacred Ground: Explorations in a Womanist Cultural Psychology of Religion,” turns to the lived religious experiences, expressed in, but well beyond, the “official” religious sites of black women. As a practical theologian she is recognized for her contributions to womanist perspectives in psychoanalysis and religion, methodology, cultural studies and pastoral theology. She received advanced training and certificates in pastoral psychotherapy (Center for Religion and Psychotherapy of Chicago, 1993) and adult psychoanalysis (Institute for Psychoanalysis, 2005). She maintained a clinical practice for more than 20 years and served in pastoral roles in two urban parish settings.


This webinar is hosted by the Public Scholars Project, a joint initiative of the Public Understanding of Religion Committee of the American Academy of Religion and the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute. Webinars feature scholars and practitioners who can provide tools, resources and recommendations for presenting in a variety of settings (e.g., social media, news, public events and community gatherings) about a range of topics. The Public Scholars Project created this webinar series to help scholars hone their skills at communicating with a variety of publics. To view the complete webinar schedule for the 2019-20 academic year, please webpage.

If you are interested in receiving updates about future Public Scholars Project webinars, please sign up for the Religious Freedom Center newsletter here.



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