Religious Leadership, Civil Discourse and Democracy in the Public Square

Through the generous support of a Ford Foundation Freedom of Expression grant, Dr. David Elcott, The Henry and Marilyn Taub Professor of Practice in Public Service and Leadership, leads a project entitled “Religious Leadership, Civil Discourse and Democracy in the Public Square: Advancing the Positive Role of Faith Leaders in America” that includes contributions from Professors Erica Foldy and Andrew Sinclair and Research Fellows Adam Ray Cross, Katelyn Riconda, Perry Wong, Carlos Rodriguez, Ryan Porush, and Maria Gutierrez.

This project recognizes that the common sense of civil separation between church and state obscures the significant role that American religious leaders play as voices of civic education and engagement. Given the violent rhetoric, political polarization, and other challenges to constructive dialogue across lines of race, gender, religion, and sexual identity, the Religion, Civic Leadership, and Democracy in the Public Square project seeks to work with religious communities to promote constructive dialogue and civil discourse.

The initiative is designed to:

  • Understand the role that religious leaders and communities play in American political life; and,
  • Equip a new generation of religious leaders to promote constructive civil discourse and pluralist democratic values.

As few religious leaders have been trained for the civic role they now often play, this project uses literature research, surveys, focus groups, and interviews to develop a resource toolkit, training program, and model for civics education in seminaries, youth clergy settings, and ecclesiastic conferences.

Related resources:

Video Guide to Religion and Civics

Flexibility in American Religious Life: An Exploration of Loyalty and Purity

Contact Us

For more information on this project, please contact David M. Elcott, Ph.D., the Taub Professor of Practice in Public Service and Leadership at NYU Wagner.