WFU religion professor to launch web site promoting religious tolerance
August 25, 2008
Lynn Neal, assistant professor of religion at Wake Forest University, challenged the students in her spring course, “Religious Intolerance in the United States,” to create a Web site incorporating what they learned in the class. “Fighting Religious Intolerance: Portraits of Hate, Lessons of Hope” (http://fightingreligiousintolerance.org/) will be formally launched during a reception at 4 p.m. Sept. 9 in Benson University Center room 401. The site uses visual media such as cartoons, photographs and leaflets to illustrate the vilification and persecution of religious groups in America.
The aim of the Web site is to promote religious tolerance by raising awareness of intolerance in the United States, not just in the past but as it exists today. Neal notes that in 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that hate crimes based on religion were second only to hate crimes based on race. “Portraits of Hate, Lessons of Hope” deals primarily with images targeting Jews, Catholics and Mormons, but Neal plans to have students in the next session of the course expand the site to include images portraying Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and new religious movements.
The class created the Web site with the intent to show the variety and persistence of religious intolerance in the United States by using an extensive archive of historical images of religious hatred, and to combat it through education and discussion. The Web site includes links to resources for promoting religious tolerance and for understanding a variety of religious traditions, as well as a moderated discussion area. “I think this will be a great tool for high school and college classes exploring this issue,” says Neal.
The idea for the Web site came about in part due to the lack of space for illustrations in a book Neal is co-authoring with John Corrigan, Edwin Scott Gaustad Professor of Religion at Florida State University. The manuscript for “Religious Intolerance in the United States: a Documentary History” is scheduled to go to press in October.
“Portraits of Hate, Lessons of Hope” was funded by grants from the Chambers Fund and the Office of Entrepreneurship at Wake Forest University.