Mitt Romney's run for the White House raises perennial questions about the place of religion in the public square and offers scholars an interesting occasion to reconsider the relationship between religion and American politics. The media has made much of Romney's religion and so have some sectors of the American public. What can we learn from public attitudes about Mormonism? Are the religious beliefs of a political candidate relevant to serving in office, and if so, how? Are there political implications to Mormonism? Do the careers of other Mormon politicians shed any light on this question? In what ways is Mormonism politically comparable to other religious groups?- Center for the Study of Religion, Princeton University
Sarah (Sally) Barringer Gordon, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law & History at the University of Pennsylvania, teaches in the areas of church and state, property, and legal history in the law school, and American religious and constitutional history in the history department.
Sally is the author of The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America (University of North Carolina Press, 2002), which won the 2003 Best Book Awards from both the Mormon History Association and the Utah Historical Society, and is currently at work on a twentieth-century book on law and religion called The Spirit of the Law, to be published by Harvard University Press. She is also a co-author, with Professor Kathryn Daynes of Brigham Young University, of Inlaws and Outlaws, a book-length study of the social history of prosecutions of polygamists in territorial Utah, to be published by the University of Illinois Press.
Sally is a regular commentator on radio and television on law and religion. She serves on the boards of Vassar College, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, and the Mormon History Association, and is actively involved in the American Society for Legal History, American Historical Association, the Western History Association, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and the Organization of American Historians.
Richard Bushman is Gouverneur Morris Professor of History emeritus at Columbia University and author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (2005). He has been appointed Visiting Professor of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University for 2007-2008. Among his books in early American history is a study of material culture, The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (1992).
Kathleen Flake is Associate Professor of American Religious History, Vanderbilt University Graduate Department of Religion and Divinity School. Her subject area expertise is in the area of adaptive strategies of American religions and constitutional questions of church and state.
She recently published The Politics of Religious Identity: the Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle with University of North Carolina Press. Flake practiced law for fifteen years in Washington, D.C., litigating civil rights and tort actions on behalf of the federal government. Frequently invited to comment on Mormonism in the news, she is also a panelist for the Washington Post/Newsweek' s "On Faith" blog.
Melissa Proctor is visiting Lecturer in Ethics at Harvard Divinity School during 2007-2008. She holds a master's degree from Yale Divinity School and will receive her Ph.D. in Religion and Critical Thought from Brown University this year.
Her research interests include religion and politics, feminist theory, women, gender, and sexuality, religious and philosophical ethics, and Mormonism. Last year she was at Princeton University's Center for the Study of Religion working on a dissertation entitled Equality, Agency, and Moral Identity Formation: Boundary Negotiation and American Mormon Women. She is the organizer of the "Mormonism and American Politics" conference.
Jan Shipps is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies and History at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. A well-known non-Mormon authority on the Latter-day Saints, she is the author of Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition, a 1985 volume that is still very much in print (and even in the news as none other than the Southern Baptists have concluded that Mormonism is, indeed, a new religious tradition).
Her Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years among the Mormons, which was published in 2000, won the Mormon History Association's Best Book Award. She is the immediate past president of the American Society of Church History and just this past fall, the John Whitmer Historical Association (whose members concentrate on the history of the Mormons who did not go west) gave her a "Lifetime Achievement Award." Since is it nearing the end of 2007, Jan Shipps is moving toward having been engaged with the study of Mormonism for a half-century. Of particular interest in this particular venue is the fact that she got her start with an M.A. thesis on the "Mormons in Politics in Illinois: 1839-1847" and a doctoral dissertation on "The Mormons in Politics: The First Hundred Years."
Jan is a life-long Methodist who is the official church historian for the First United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Indiana where, since 1989, she has been serving as one of two leaders of an adult forum known as the Wesley Conventicle.