Opinion: "Religion Scholars Challenge Patriot Act"

February 9, 2006

Source: Sightings


On February 9, 2006 Sightings ran an opinion piece by W. Clark Gilpin, Margaret E. Burton Professor of the History of Christianity and Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Gilpin writes, "On Wednesday, January 25, the American Academy of Religion (AAR), the world's largest association of scholars of religion, joined a lawsuit that challenges a key provision of the USA Patriot Act. Citing the 2004 revocation of a travel visa for noted Swiss scholar of Islam Tariq Ramadan, the suit contends that an 'ideological exclusion' provision of the Patriot Act is being used to impede the free circulation of scholars and scholarly debate that are integral to academic freedom. Commenting on the suit, AAR Executive Director Barbara DeConcini stated that 'preventing foreign scholars like Professor Ramadan from visiting the U.S. limits not only the ability of scholars here to enhance their own knowledge, but also their ability to inform students, journalists, public policy makers, and other members of the public who rely on scholars' work to acquire a better understanding of critical current issues involving religion'... The study of religion is necessarily international in scope and actively engages scholars from other cultures and nations. At a moment in history when religion is perceived to have exceptionally volatile connections to international politics, it is not surprising that the scholarly exchange of ideas about religion may include political views the government disfavors. It is, however, precisely in such volatile circumstances that sustaining free academic deliberation about the relations among religion, culture, and politics becomes imperative."