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Office of External Communications

Houston, TX 77204-5017 Fax; 713/743-8199

January 7, 2004

Contact: Eric Gerber
713/743-8189 (office)


The separation of church and state is one of America’s constitutional pillars, but exactly how – and how far –must one be separated from the other? Can that division be so rigid that it infringes on the equally protected free exercise of religion? Or so murky that it allows religion to distort the duties of government?

That issue has ignited a firestorm of litigation recently – from challenges to the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance to disputes about displaying the Ten Commandments in public offices. To explore this contentious topic, the University of Houston Law Center will host “Considering God in Government” at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 28. The debate will pit Kevin J. Hasson, president of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, against the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU).

Johnny Buckles, a UH law professor with a master’s degree from the Dallas Theological Seminary, will serve as moderator. This will be the fourth annual Andrews Kurth Debate. It is free and open to the public. (CLE credit is available for this event; contact 713-743-2201 or Briefcase@uh.edu to register.)

Lynn, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, has a law degree from Georgetown University and a degree from Boston University School of Theology. He is the co-author of “The Right to Religious Liberty: The Basic ACLU Guide to Religious Rights” and served for two years as regular co-host of the radio program “Pat Buchanan and Company.” He’s been executive director of AU since 1992. AU describes itself as “a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. (that) educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.”

Hasson, who has both a law degree and a theology degree from Notre Dame, is a former attorney-adviser for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, where his responsibilities included advising the Reagan Administration on church/state issues. The Becket Fund characterizes itself as “a bipartisan and ecumenical public-interest law firm that protects the free expression of all religious traditions.”

WHAT: Andrews Kurth Debate: “Considering God in Government”

WHEN: 1 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 28
WHERE: Krost Hall Auditorium
UH Law Center
Entrance 19 (off Calhoun Rd.). Parking in Lots 19B and 21A
WHO: Kevin J.Hasson, president of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and Barry W. Lynn, executive director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

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