Q & A with Naomi Schaefer Riley

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Apr 10, 2008 5:00 PM

Townhall.com's Lindsay Boyd is attending the Church & State 2008 Conference at Grove City College.  She will be checking in with us throughout the day.  Here's her second report from the road:  

Q & A with Naomi Schaefer Riley

Wall Street Journal editor and author of "God on the Quad" 

Intense discussion continues to roll here at Grove City College's Center for Vision and Values "Church & State 2008" Summit. I reported on Dr. Gary Smith's lecture earlier this morning, during which he addressed the foundations of this controversial relationship through the lense of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson's intent has been contested for over two hundred years, which is no doubt a testament to the the acknowlegement on all sides of Jefferson's mandate over the issue. 

Just as Jefferson's credited as the source of discourse on this topic, education is at the root of solving (if it can be solved) the perplexing dilemna of how churches and states interact. How our nation's students are viewing our founders' (and specifically Jefferson's) intent will shape the direction our civil society will take in the years, decades...centuries...to come. 

This afternoon, Paul Kengor (author of "God and Reagan" and most recently, "God and George W. Bush) sat down with Naomi Schaefer Riley, an editor with the Wall Street Journal, who authored "God on the Quad". [# More #]

 Mrs. Riley addressed the fact that "religious activity is no longer something you do outside of class." Elitest professors at elitest universities are bringing faith into the classroom as a point of contention.  

Moreover, universities that take a more traditional approach to higher education by adhering to conservative social and educational standards are being viewed from a condescending throne of "free thought"- those elitest universities who presuppose that liberal discussions cannot occur when religious thought is jointly present. 

How are our college students reacting to this mounting pressure? Mrs. Riley claims that surprisingly for some, our college kids are crying out for more faith-based educations, more traditional social/institutional standards, and for college administrations to set boundaries for behavior inside and outside the classroom. Mrs. Riley asserts that the lack of boundaries are the fault of a runaway train of leftist, secular professors determining educational agendas. 

Mrs. Riley points to the growing enrollents in private, Christian universities as compared with the decreasing enrollments in public institutions. These trends, Mrs. Riley continues, are the result of a more general, societal trend towards the rejection of secular agendas and a civil defense of faith. Hillary Clinton was well-aware of this following the 2004 presidential election, after which she approached Tufts University and acknowledged that the Democratic party will be accountable to the ever-increasing values-voter block. 

So based upon her research, what does Mrs. Riley think about Barak Obama's recent firestorm over Reverand Wright's controversial religious doctrines? 

"Best case scenario is that Obama's sat in church for the past twenty years not believing a single word his pastor's said".  

"And that's the best case." 

What about the question of McCain's appeal to the religious right? 

"The nature of the evangelical movement is contrary to an assumption that they'll just stay home." 

Implicit in that statement is an interesting, but very real reflection on the evangelical community: their very nature involves the influencing (especially when met with resistance) those who need influencing. Most, including Mrs. Riley, acknowlege that McCain's a prime example of their target audience. And who better to persuade than the potential "leader of the free world"? 

That wraps up my first day of reporting on this explosive Summit. Join me tomorrow- things are just heating up!