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KNOXVILLE — Constitution Week is Sept. 10-17 and, to celebrate that, the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy is holding two special events — a forum about religion and a symbolic Constitution signing.

“We wanted to hold more interactive events that involve students engaging in thought about policy issues,” said Gavin Luter of the Baker Center.

Students, faculty, staff and community members will have the chance to voice their opinions during an interactive forum entitled “Religion’s Role in Public Life” at 4 p.m. on Wednesday in the Library Galleria.

Participating faculty include Robert Bast, associate professor of history and Riggsby Director of the Marco Institute; Rosalind Hackett, religious studies professor and founder of the Jazz for Justice effort; David Reidy, associate professor of philosophy; Charles Reynolds, professor of religious studies; and Otis Stephens, Alumni Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science and Resident Scholar of Constitutional Law.

“Religion is a significant part of the culture of East Tennessee,” Luter said. “Further, it is the role of the university to expose students, faculty and community members to new ideas regardless of the subject. We feel this issue is broadly applicable to most within our community.

“The Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause prohibit Congress from establishing a national religion, but many individuals and groups in America have strong feelings about what role religion plays in our country. Religion is frequently used in campaign rhetoric and general public policy formation. It is inescapable that religion matters to our society.”

On Sept. 17 on the library side of the pedestrian walkway, an oversized Constitution will be available to sign. It will be there from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Luter said the act of adding one’s own John Hancock will give everyone a chance to remember the foundation upon which the United States was built.

“We wanted to give students the opportunity to symbolically take part in a substantial part of our history. Essentially, they will simulate an act of our forefathers and hopefully recommit themselves to the ideals laid out in the Constitution.”

For more information about the Baker Center, see


Gavin Luter, (865) 974-0931,

Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,