2020 Regional Meetings

Open Registration:

All remaining regional meetings for 2020 have been canceled

Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion

Charge:  The Public Understanding of Religion Committee fosters attention to the broad public understanding of religion and the role of religion in public life. This charge is achieved by seeking to catalyze the skills and practices among AAR members that promote the public understanding of religion and equip members to more effectively engage issues of religion in the public sphere. The Committee also collaborates with individuals and organizations to promote the public understanding of religion, by using many channels to reach many publics.

Composition:   Up to six members.

Term of Service:  Four years, non-renewable.

Meetings Schedule:

  • Once in-person at the Annual Meeting in November.
  • Meets in the spring in-person each year in Washington, DC, typically for 1.5 days. The time tends to be a Thursday afternoon through Friday. Unless a committee member has no institutional funding available, members' institution typically covers their transportation (including flights/trains) to and from the meeting.

Duties and Responsibilities:

Members of the Public Understanding of Religion Committee are expected to participate in the following:

  • The PUR Committee is a highly active committee that takes on a lot of projects. Each committee member is expected to do substantial work.
  • Martin E. Marty Public Understanding of Religion Award - Committee members are responsible for the annual review of nominations and selection of recipient.  A Special Topics Forum is held at the Annual Meeting in November for the Marty Award recipient.
  • One representative from the PUR Committee serves on Journalism Award jury.  A Special Topics Forum is held at the Annual Meeting in November for the Journalism Award recipients.
  • The PUR Committee sponsors (collaboratively with the Newseum's Religious Freedom Center) a media-skills workshop on the Friday afternoon of the Annual Meeting.
  • The PUR Committee usually sponsors or cosponsors additional Annual Meeting sessions.  Generally, each member of the committee takes the lead in organizing and often presiding one or more committee events at the Annual Meeting.
  • The group often pursues collaborations with relevant Washington, DC, institutions.

Publications or other items:

Timeline of Activities:

  • Mid-February through March: heavy planning and organizing for Annual Meeting events.
  • In-person PUR Committee meeting on Friday morning before the start of the Annual Meeting.

Member Position Term Start Term End
Asma Afsaruddin 2018 2021
Evan Berry Chair 2020 2022
Vincent Biondo 2020 2023
Terrence Johnson 2018 2021
Nathan C. Walker 2020 2023
Thelathia Young 2020 2023

Staff Liaison Job Title Phone Number
Marion Pierre Program Specialist 4047270940

Public Scholars Project

The Public Scholars Project is a joint initiative of the American Academy of Religion and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. Through seminars and other resources, the Public Scholars Project equips scholars of religion to effectively communicate in the public sphere and foster religious literacy.

Public Scholars Project Webinars: July 2017 through June 2018

Public Scholars Project Fellows: Fall 2017, Spring 2018, or Summer 2018

November 17, 2017, AAR Annual Meeting, Boston: The Public Scholars Project – Practical Skills for the Public Scholar

November 18, 2016, AAR Annual Meeting, San Antonio: Scholar as Activist, Commentator, Specialist 

October 14, 2016, Webinar: Social Media and Scholars of Religion

October 5, 2016, Webinar: Why Us? Why Now? 


AAR Guidelines for Teaching About Religion in K-12 Public Schools in the United States 

In the Public Interest columns:

Rev. J. Bryan Hehir Wins Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion (November 14, 2016)

Campaign 2016 and the Jewish Problem (November 2, 2016)

Tolerance for Others and Same-Sex Marriage (May 26, 2016)

Religious Liberty in the US: Coming to Terms with Hobby Lobby, RFRA, and RLUIPA (November 17, 2015)

Ziba Mir-Hosseini to Receive 2015 Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion (June 15, 2015)

The Doniger Affair: Censorship, Self-Censorship, and the Role of the Academy in the Public Understanding of Religion (October, 2014)

Charles Taylor to Receive 2014 Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion (May, 2014)

Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941–2013) and the Chastened Lives of Public Scholars (October, 2013)

Public, Compared to What? (March, 2013)

Prison Chaplaincy Directors at the AAR Annual Meeting: Multireligion Literacy and Government Accommodation of Religion in Prisons (October, 2012)

Effectively Engaging in Public Dialogue: Scholars and the Public Representations of Islam in the United States (March, 2012)

The Public Understanding of Religion and the AAR (October, 2011)

Is the God Beat Dead? (March, 2011)

Religion, Character, and Education: Another Battleground in the Public Schools? (October, 2010)

Religion Scholars and National Governments: Should They Be Partners? — A Panel Discussion (March, 2010)

Video and Audio Files from Annual Meeting Sessions:

Roundtable on Religion, Race, and the 2016 Elections (San Antonio, 2016)

What’s Love Got to Do with It? Critical Appraisals of Love as a Civic Value (San Antonio, 2016)

The Value of Religious Studies in an Age of Budget Cuts (Atlanta, 2015)

Religious Liberty, The Supreme Court, RFRA, and RLUIPA (Atlanta, 2015)

Media Representations of ISIS - ISIL (Atlanta, 2015)

The Marty Forum: Ziba Mir-Hosseini (Atlanta, 2015)

The Marty Forum: Charles Taylor (San Diego, 2014)

The Marty Forum: Wendell Berry (Baltimore, 2013)

The Marty Forum: Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (Chicago, 2012)

Public Understanding and Education on Religion Roundtable (San Francisco, 2011)

Who Speaks for Us? Responses to Representations of Islam and Christianity in America (San Francisco, 2011)

Blogging God: On Faith at (Atlanta, 2010)

The Marty Forum: James H. Cone (Montréal, 2009)