First Five Newsletter: September 19, 2019

First Five
First Amendment protecting artificial intelligence, identity protection, religious freedom events and more.

First Five Column

Lata Nott dives into the recent posed question, “does the First Amendment protect speech made by artificial intelligence?” Nott looks at unsettled First Amendment issues centered on whether or not the amendment covers new forms of technology, because in fact, they’re all vehicles people can use to communicate with one another and express ideas. Read the column. A plain text version is available here.

WHAT We’re reading

The Arizona Supreme Court held that freedom of speech protects calligraphers’ right not to create custom same-sex wedding invitations. The court distinguished this case from others involving blanket refusals to provide floral arrangements and wedding venues, emphasizing that most of the goods and services commonly provided for weddings would not be considered “speech” and therefore would not be considered immune from anti-discrimination laws. 

A former National Security Agency contractor accused of leaking classified information on drone warfare is arguing that his actions are protected under the First Amendment, in a challenge to the Espionage Act that has implications for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

MIT Technology Review discusses one potential use for deepfake technology beyond spreading misinformation — a new technique developed by Norwegian researchers that could be used to protect someone’s identity, like a whistleblower, in a photo or video.

program news

On Sept. 6, the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute hosted a film screening of the feature-length documentary, “American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel,” underscoring the complexities of religion and religious identity in America. At the same time, it highlighted the impact and implications of policies around racial discrimination, religious intolerance, immigration and LGBTQ rights that intersect with religious freedom. 

A distinguished group of religious and community leaders, including those featured in the film, participated in a panel discussion about the relevancy of this topic in the public square. Panelists included Bishop Carlton Pearson, founder of the Metacostal Network of Churches and Ministries, the Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., Robert P. Jones, Ph.D., founding chief executive officer of the Public Religion Research Institute, Rachel Laser, president and chief executive officer of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, a distinguished lecturer at the Freedom Forum Institute’s Religious Freedom Center. 

The program was funded by the Henry Luce Foundation in connection with the Religious Freedom Center’s initiative “Religious Freedom: African American Perspectives.” Learn more about the project and graduate intensive course being offered in January 2020 here.

upcoming events

‘Same God’ Film Screening
Thursday, Oct. 17, 6:30 — 9:30 p.m.

In December 2015, Larycia Hawkins, Ph.D., posted a photo of herself wearing a hijab. A caption for the photo stated that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. At the time, Dr. Hawkins was a political science professor at Wheaton College in Illinois. She was the first African-American woman to receive tenure there. She lost her position within two months. 

The Religious Freedom Center invites you to a film screening of the award-winning documentary, “Same God” on Thursday, Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Newseum. The film explores issues of Islamophobia, religious freedom, academic freedom, race, theology, white evangelicalism and politics. Speakers include Linda MidgettLarycia HawkinsLisa Sharon Harper and Asma Uddin. RSVP here

REL 700: African Americans and Religious Freedom
jan. 6 — 10, 2020

Calling all graduate students and seminarians! Register to participate in the Religious Freedom Center’s graduate intensive course REL 700 African Americans and Religious Freedom from Jan. 6 -10, 2020 in Washington, D.C. 

This blended learning course, designed for graduate and seminary students, will critically address the contentious politics of race and religious freedom in American public life. Particular attention will be given to the how and in what ways power, violence, identity and pluralism form and frame the discourse of religious freedom across time and space. The course will feature a team of scholars and professional experts actively engaged in addressing these issues in multiple contexts. This course is being offered in partnership with the six historically black theological institutions. 

Registration is open now through Dec. 1. All registrants must currently be enrolled in an accredited academic institution. Learn more here.


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