Religious Freedom, Vanderbilt University, and the Trampling of Civil Liberties – 2nd Lecture by Dr. Carol M. Swain of Vanderbilt at WKU

Vanderbilt University has recently become the center of controversy for its decision to require student religious organizations to allow those who do not hold the organizations’ convictions into positions of leadership in the organizations.  Vanderbilt law professor Carol Swain believes that this policy tramples upon the groups’ civil liberties and religious freedoms.  Many faculty, students, and alumni see the policy as a veiled effort to push student religious groups off campus.  Dr. Swain reports on the campus response to this policy and explores the ethical, moral, and constitutional issues posed by this development.

  • Fri, Feb 1, 7.30-8.45am, WKU Faculty House
  • Q&A following the presentation
  • Session ends promptly at 8.45am
  • open to the public
  • E-mail to reserve a seat for this continental breakfast
  • cost: $5 per person
  • Sponsored by the Christian Faculty & Staff Fellowship at WKU



Dr. Carol M. Swain, Professor of Political Science & Law, Vanderbilt University


Carol M. Swain is an American political scientist and professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University.  Her fields are race relations, immigration, representation, evangelical politics and the US constitution.   Dr. Swain was born in Bedford, Virginia.  One of twelve children raised in poverty, she did not attend high school.  She earned a GED and later an associate’s degree from Virginia Western Community College.  She went on to complete a B.A.  in criminal justice from Roanoke College and master’s degree in political science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.  She earned a master’s degree in Law from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Dr. Swain has two children.

In addition to being a regular contributor to CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, Swain has appeared on the BBC World News, NPR, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Fox News Live, PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, and ABC’s Headline News.  She also has written op-eds for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and USA Today.

She has testified before Congress on multiple occasions, once alongside Stephen Colbert.
Dr. Swain served as an advisor to the US Civil Rights Commission, was a member of the National Council on the Humanities and was a Trustee of Roanoke College.  She is a foundation member of the Nu of Virginia Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.  She currently leads The Carol Swain Foundation, a non-profit organization which seeks “to educate the American people about conservative values and principles and to encourage them to acknowledge and to re-embrace the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation.”

Her work on representation and race relations has earned her national and international accolades.  Her first book, Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress (Harvard University Press, 1993, 1995), reprinted by University Press of America (2006), was named one of the seven outstanding academic books of 1994 by Library Choice Journal.  It also won: the 1994 Woodrow Wilson prize for the best book published in the U.S. on government, politics or international affairs; the D.B. Hardeman Prize for best scholarly work on Congress during 1994-1995; and was co-winner of the V.O. Key Award in political science for the best book on Southern politics.  The book was cited by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in Johnson v. DeGrandy (1994) and by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in Georgia v. Ashcroft (2003).

Dr. Swain’s most recent book is a critically acclaimed political and cultural analysis titled Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise.  This work is analytical, not devotional.  Her other books include The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration (Cambridge University Press, 2002), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; and Contemporary Voices of White Nations (Cambridge University Press, 2003, edited with Russ Nieli).  She also edited an anthology of student essays, titled Race Versus Class: The New Affirmative Action Debate (University of America Press, 1996).  Her book, Debating Immigration (Cambridge University Press, 2007), is a collection of 18 essays by Swain and others that explore the nuances of contemporary immigration policy and citizenship in the United States.

Swain is a member of the Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and was appointed to the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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