Professor Gaston Espinosa Attends White House Briefing for Religious Scholars

Gaston Espinosa, the Arthur V. Stoughton Professor of Religious Studies, was invited to a recent VIP White House Briefing for religious scholars entitled, Advancing the Common Good at Home and Abroad.

Espinosa joined academic leaders and religion scholars from around the country at a gathering on May 11, hosted by President Obama’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The briefing served to update officials on key domestic and international topics important to the faith community, as well as the goals and progress of Obama’s faith-based initiative.

At the briefing, Espinosa met with Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and Neighborhood Partnerships, as well as Doug Kmiec, the U.S. Ambassador to Malta.

“Ambassador Kimiec was heavily responsible for helping Obama win over many moderate and pro-life Catholics swing voters as part of Obama’s New Democratic Pluralism platform,” Espinosa says. “We discussed some of the assets and liabilities the President faced in 2008 and 2012, and why there seemed to be a shift in his approach to and relationship with the faith community, and some of the potential fallout in the wake of recent controversies over contraceptives and gay marriage in 2012.”

Espinosa’s newest edited book, Religion, Race, and Barack Obama’s New Democratic Pluralism, published by Routledge Press, is scheduled for publication in mid-August.

Comprising thoughtful analysis by leading experts on religion and politics in the United States, the book details how 10 of the largest segments (Catholics, Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Women, Seculars, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos) of the American electorate voted in the 2008 presidential election, and why drawing on the latest and available data, interviews, and sources.

Building on the book and the White House briefing, Espinosa will discuss the religious ramifications of the 2008 election during his three-week CMC summer session course, American Religious History.

The seminar will introduce students to key movements, debates, and controversies from the Founding Fathers to Obama’s use of religion in the 2008 election. It will also bring in guest speakers and offer optional field trips to Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist houses of worship.

“It will be structured as a discussion-seminar, based on a close reading of short, primary- and secondary source texts,” Espinosa says. “We will also watch documentary film clips, bring in a Catholic, Jewish, and African American Pentecostal guest speakers, and offer optional field trips to museums, as well as a Muslim Mosque, a Protestant Church, and Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple one of the largest Buddhist Temples in the United States.

“Our class will be very interactive, lively, and I hope a engaging learning experience,” a lot of fun,” he adds.