Professor Barbara McGraw Delivers Keynote Address

On January 11, the founder of Saint Mary’s Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism, Professor Barbara McGraw, PhD, JD, delivered the keynote address to members of the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces (NCMAF), the organization that serves as a point of contact between the Department of Defense and chaplains. This organization’s members endorse chaplains to serve in the armed forces as well as oversee them.

A professor of Social Ethics, Law, and Public Life, McGraw specializes in research on religious pluralism, which she describes as “the value, mindset, and achievement of cooperation across boundaries of religious, spiritual and secular difference, to work toward and achieve common goals in equal dignity, respect, and mutual loyalty.” Pluralism is the engagement across the boundaries of difference between religious groups, not merely the fact of  religious diversity.

McGraw spoke to “America’s Sacred Ground,” the idea that religious pluralism is a founding idea in American democracy and that it is a foundational value underlying the Constitution. Her ideal goal in giving the NCMAF speech was to influence the entire military chaplaincy system, hoping to create a ripple effect that encourages chaplains and their endorsers to be chaplains who serve all faiths, not just their own  denomination or religion. In the armed forces, for example, there could be a situation where a Jewish or Muslim soldier is dying during a military conflict— or someone in need of spiritual counseling—but for various reasons, only a Lutheran or Catholic chaplain is available. 

SMC’s Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism at Saint Mary’s College of California is dedicated to collaboration and discourse between the different religious groups at the College and beyond. This center was founded and dedicated “to the civic engagement of religiously diverse voices and promoting interfaith leadership in and for the public square, and the professions grounded in pluralism as an American value.” It advocates for interfaith leadership and religious diversity understanding in the military and correctional institutions, in higher education institutions, and in all professions, as well as for unbiased representation of all religions in K-12 textbooks.

For more information on the center, click here.