Mahatma Gandhi Quote over desert landscape imageThe Center advocates for causes related to its mission, as we are committed to making a real difference in the world.

Advocacy for matters of religious liberty, diversity, and pluralism with civic import requires activities beyond educational initiativeson-campus events, and scholarship. Our advocacy initiatives address issues involving religious pluralism in the public square.

Advocacy Initiatives

An incarcerated man looking out the bars in a window
Advocating for Religious Pluralism and Interfaith Leadership in Correctional Institutions

Correctional institutions are required by law to accommodate religion, as prison inmates do not lose their religious rights when the are incarcerated. However, adherents of minority religions, and sometimes adherents of even well-established majority religions, have had a difficulty when they try to exercise those rights. Application of the law has resulted in uncertainty in many jurisdictions and resistance in others. The Center’s Prison Religion Project strives to address these concerns by providing educational materials, a forum for inclusive discussion about accommodation of religious diversity in prisons, and giving interviews and speeches.

Watch Mara Willard’s Georgetown Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs interview of Dr. McGraw on the issue.

Learn about the Center's Prison Religion Project.

Advocating for Religious Pluralism and Interfaith Leadership in the Military

The U.S. Military has adopted policies to ensure that the religious rights of service people are protected. Yet the issue of equal treatment of religious minorities remains fraught, as the military has a long-standing structural system of religious institution endorsers. On the one hand, that system ensures that only qualified chaplains become military chaplains. On the other hand, that policy limits the range of religions that can be represented in the chaplaincy corps, which is opening the military to a better understanding of religiously diverse needs. The military is gradually evolving with regard to such concerns.  It is even beginning to permit modifications to uniforms to accommodate religious requirements, for example, a Sikh wearing a turban as part of his uniform. The photo is of Dr. McGraw advocating for more religiously diverse military policies at the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces.

Yoga pose in front of a sunset
Advocating for Spirituality and Religious Diversity, Ethics, and Social Responsibility in Business

How can businesses do good while doing well?  How can we build business education programs and companies that address the ways that businesses can contribute to making the world a better place? It is important that personal spirituality, religious commitments, and values; the values of the organizations in which individuals work or which they create; and public policies promote economic health while also taking into account societal wellbeing. Dr. McGraw addresses such issues in an interview at the School of Management Science in Varanasi, India which can be viewed here.

Advocating for Equitable Treatment of Religions in K-12 Textbooks

K-12 textbooks have become a matter of public policy controversy over the past couple of decades. Historically, textbooks covered the religions of the world as if we Americans were looking “out” to foreign, even exotic nations. Today, however, due to more lenient immigration laws since the 1960s, the United States has become one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world — the student next to you or your child could be Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Christian, Muslim or hold any number of religious and non-religious commitments. Yet K-12 textbooks, entrenched in that former historical perspective, have not caught up.  Dr. McGraw advocates for fairer, more accurate treatment of religious minorities in K-12 textbooks. The photo shows Dr. McGraw giving testimony at the California State Board of Education hearing on K-12 textbook requirements. 

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Advocating for Religious Liberty, Gender Equity, and the Affordable Care Act

Religious liberty, on the one hand, and the Affordable Care Act, on the other hand, are in conflict over provisions that require religious people and their institutions to provide, or take steps in furtherance of others providing, contraception to employees.  Not only is this a religious liberty issue, however; it is also an issue of women’s right to equal treatment under healthcare access law. Watch Dr. McGraw’s interview on Bay Area CW44 on this issue here.

Advocating for How Religiously Diverse Views Can Inform Economic Justice

Can the wisdom of the world’s religions contribute to a more robust conversation about what values global economic policies should serve? Perhaps such wisdom might suggest policies that temper the harshest outcomes of an unbounded, winner-take-all market system. Insights for a better understanding of the individual (Protestantism; Hinduism), the importance of valuing affective relationships (Confucianism), the justice of fair economic distribution (Islam), and the sacredness and interconnectedness of all of Nature, including human beings (Hinduism), for example, could reorient current assumptions underlying policy prescriptions. Considering such insights might contribute to the development of global economic policies that are more responsive to the needs of individuals, families, communities, societies, and planetary well-being than the ideology that current global economic institutions support. The photo is of Dr. McGraw giving her keynote address on “The Moral Economy in Global Perspective” at the School of Management Science’s Spiritual Paradigm for Surmounting Global Management Crisis conference," in Varanasi, India. 

Advocating for Scholar-Activism

Should scholars also be advocates? There are rewards and challenges for being a scholar-activist whether one’s activism is on the national or global stage or is on a local or institutional matter that nevertheless has a profound impact on many lives. Rewards include having one’s scholarly expertise recognized and put to good use outside of the academy, as well as the satisfaction of having one’s scholarship make a difference on an important issue of institutional, social, or public policy concern. Committing oneself to a cause also includes the challenge of maintaining one’s objectivity, so that the scholar-activist does not become only an activist. Other challenges include the extra workload, which can become overwhelming, and the emotional toll of disappointed expectations and unjust outcomes. Also, whenever one takes a stand, there is always the risk of being the recipient of hostility. The photo is of a panel, including Dr. McGraw, at the Berkley Center on "Being a Scholar—Being an Advocate.” Click here to view.

Center for Religious Pluralism

Contact Us

Barbara A. McGraw, JD., Ph.D.

Professor, Social Ethics, Law, & Public Life

Director of the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism