Interfaith Scholar Weekend Focuses on Inclusive Religious Freedom

Interfaith Scholar Weekend Focuses on Inclusive Religious Freedom

Since 1998, the Interfaith Scholar Weekend has been bringing scholars from diverse faiths to Fresno to share with our local interfaith community the points of similarities and differences that our many faiths possess. It has been a collaboration of

  • congregations (Bodhi Oak Zen Sangha, Community United Church of Christ, First Congregational Church of Fresno, Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, Sophia’s House, St. James Episcopal Cathedral, Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, Second Church of Christ Scientist, St. Paul Catholic Newman Center, Temple Beth Israel, Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno and Wesley United Methodist Church),
  • organizations (American Friends Service Committee, Human Rights Coalition of the Central Valley, Interfaith Alliance of Central California, Sikh Council of Central California) and
  • universities (Fresno State University, Fresno Pacific University and Fresno City College).

These entities have brought to the Central Valley scholars from Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Unitarian Universalist, Hindu and Sikh traditions around great issues to which these scholars have dedicated their lives.

For the past two years, the Interfaith Scholar Weekend was conducted via Zoom, but on March 10–12 there is a return to a normal in-person weekend with a special speaker, Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, the new president and CEO of the Interfaith Alliance, which is based in Washington, D.C.

On Friday, Rev. Raushenbush will start the weekend at the St. Paul Catholic Newman Center (1572 E. Barstow Ave.) at 6 p.m. with a free lecture, “Celebrating Inclusive Religious Freedom for Our Diverse Nation.” This will be responded to by Dr. Andrew Fiala, Dr. Veena Howard, Dr. Ken Hansen and Sukaina Hussain, each from their own perspective and experience of “inclusive religious freedom.”

On Saturday, the weekend continues at Temple Beth Israel (6622 N. Maroa Ave.) from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. After breakfast, there will be sacred readings from Judaism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism and discussion of how their texts support these faiths in difficult times such as we face today.

Later in the morning, Rev. Raushenbush will present the Interfaith Alliance’s report on “Big Tech, Hate and Religious Freedom Online.” The report reflects the Interfaith Alliance’s four core values—affirming religious pluralism and celebrating difference, protecting minority rights, defending separation of church and state, and engaging civility in public debate—which are needed in our polarized society and challenged democracy now more than ever.

After a lunch provided by Temple Beth Israel, attendees will brainstorm as a community and share the most important challenges we face as communities and the most valuable resources we can bring to address them. These challenges and resources will be recorded for deeper work in a follow-up session in the near future.

Saturday is the only day with a fee: $10 for students and $50 for non-students with scholarships available if requested.

On Sunday, many will join the community at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno for the 10:30 a.m. service at which Rev. Raushenbush will preach on “Shall the Christian Nationalists Win? The Critical Role of Congregations in Protecting Our Diverse Democracy.”

We hope you will participate for at least part of this important weekend.


  • Jim Grant

    Jim Grant is the chair of the Interfaith Scholar Weekend Committee. Contact him at

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