Saint Mary's Professor Barbara McGraw to Receive Mahatma Gandhi Award for Leadership in Religious Pluralism

Prof. Barbara McGrawThe Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has named Saint Mary’s Social Ethics, Law, and Public Life Professor Barbara McGraw as the recipient of the 2014 Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism. The foundation annually recognizes deserving individuals across the country in education, public policy, politics and religion for their leadership in interfaith activism and in the promotion of understanding and respect among all religions.

HAF's Director and Senior Fellow for Human Rights Samir Kalra said McGraw received the prestigious national honor for spearheading interfaith initiatives as the director of the College’s Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism (CERP),  furthering religious accommodations for prisoners through a prison religion project and, in particular, for her efforts in supporting California Senate Bill 1057, a proposal to update the state's nearly two-decades-old history-social science content standards and revise the inaccurate and outdated portrayal of diverse cultures, religions and ethnic groups in the state’s K-12 textbooks.

“It is for these reasons, her dedication to improving school textbooks for California's more than 6 million students and for many others, that the Hindu American Foundation is proud to bestow the 2014 HAF Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism on Professor McGraw," said Kalra.

Saint Mary's President James Donahue said the award is significant and underscores McGraw's unwavering commitment to the globally important need for inter-religious dialogue and understanding. "Professor McGraw has been an extraordinary advocate for religious freedom, acceptance and the critical role of religious pluralism in our society," he said. "The College is extremely proud of her and the remarkable work she directs through the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism."

Professor McGraw said she is humbled by the foundation's acknowledgement of her work. "I am honored and blessed to be recognized by the HAF, an organization dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of 'mutual respect and tolerance for the devotees of the different religions,’" she said. McGraw also expressed her deep appreciation for the support she's received from Saint Mary’s, “including the tireless work of my student interfaith leaders, who helped to make this day possible."

McGraw will receive her award during a ceremony at the HAF’s Annual Northern California Gala Dinner on Sunday, September 21, 2014 from 5 to 9 pm at the India Community Center at 525 Los Coches Street, Milpitas, Calif. 95035.

McGraw is recognized nationally as an author and commentator on American identity and the role of religious pluralism in public life. The Saint Mary’s professor has been included in briefings at the White House complex on faith-based initiatives, recently met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's Special Advisor on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Shaun Casey about inter-religious understanding and foreign service and participated in an invitation-only meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations on religion issues. Also, for over a decade, she has provided training to state and federal correctional system professionals to better serve their religiously diverse constituents and been an advocate for religiously inclusive policies, including for K-12 textbooks.

As a result of McGraw’s academic guidance, and with the support of a grant from the Interfaith Youth Core, the College is developing an undergraduate minor in interfaith leadership. Additionally, under her direction, CERP - which promotes interfaith leadership, engagement of diverse religious perspectives and inclusive public policy solutions - has sponsored many religious pluralism programs, including an annual interfaith speaker event, with such speakers as Eboo Patel, Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core.

McGraw is co-author of a popular world religions text, "Many Peoples, Many Faiths: Women and Men in the World Religions;" author of "Rediscovering America’s Sacred Ground: Public Religion and Pursuit of the Good in a Pluralistic America" and co-editor and contributor to "Taking Religious Pluralism Seriously." McGraw holds a Ph.D. in religion and social ethics and a Juris Doctor degree, both from the University of Southern California.

An advocacy organization for the Hindu American community, the HAF seeks to educate the public about Hinduism and highlights issues affecting Hindus worldwide and to promote "the American and Hindu ideal of pluralism." The HAF has bestowed the Mahatma Gandhi Award since 2005. For more information about the Hindu American Foundation, visit

For more information about Saint Mary's Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism, visit