Center for Liberty of Conscience (CLC) was founded to fill a need expressed by educators and others for resources addressing the history of liberty of conscience. CLC provides seminars, papers and other materials such as the documentary Roger Williams: Freedom’s Forgotten Hero and its accompanying study guide.
CLC is dedicated to protecting the rights and responsibilities of all persons pertaining to freedom of thought, belief and action.
The inner or intuitive sense or guidance of what is morally right or wrong. “I speak of conscience, a persuasion fixed in the mind and heart of man. . . .This conscience is found in all mankind . . .” – Roger Williams, Founder of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Everyone possesses a conscience. Regardless of creed, religion, political affiliation, cultural background, race or gender, the conscience is the seat of each individual’s ethical decision making. Because the conscience determines an individual’s thought, belief and action, it is the essence of who the individual is. Violating one’s conscience violates one’s integrity. For these reasons, the conscience is precious, sacred and to be protected and respected at all costs. “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort . . . Conscience is the most sacred of all property” – James Madison, Father of the Constitution.
Officers and Advisors
Karen R. Scott, J.D.
Karen R. Scott was born in the United States but grew up in Canada. She graduated from Walla Walla University, College Place, Washington (B.Sc.) and from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia (J.D.), after which she practiced law for eight years. She argued a religious liberty case before the Supreme Court of Canada. The Court decided unanimously in her client’s favor, setting a new precedent in Canada for work-place religious and disability accommodation.
Returning to the United States, she worked at the California Legislature where she monitored religious liberty and private education legislation, assisting both church schools and home schools. She also became a member of the State Bar of California. She served as In House Counsel for Educational Media Foundation, the parent nonprofit corporation of the K-LOVE and Air 1 Radio networks head-quartered in Rockin, California and later was Chaplain at Wheatland Retirement Village, an award winning retirement community in Walla Walla, Washington.
Karen co-produced Roger Williams: Freedom’s Forgotten Hero, a documentary on the life of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The ﬁlm aired on a PBS station as part of the 2003 Fourth of July celebrations. Karen regularly speaks at teachers’ conventions, women’s ministry retreats, churches, lawyers’ meetings, atheist and humanist groups, high schools, colleges and other events and has appeared on both radio and TV concerning liberty of conscience issues. She is a member of Humanities Washington’s Inquiring Minds Speakers Bureau. An Advisory Board member for Artists for Human Rights, Karen is currently pursuing a Master of Studies in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. Protecting religious belief and conviction in the workplace was the topic of her dissertation.
George B. Fearing, J.D.
George is a practicing attorney in Washington State, with a focus on civil liberties cases. He has authored books on Watergate, political campaigning, and the George W. Bush presidency. He has also prepared a timeline on the history of religious liberty in America, which timeline will soon be available on this website.
Derek H. Davis, Ph.D.
Derek H. Davis, B.A., M.A., J.D., Ph.D., is a graduate of Baylor University and Baylor Law School and holds a Master of Arts in Church-State Studies from Baylor University and a Doctor of Philosophy in Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas. He is Dean of the College of Humanities and Dean of the Graduate School at Mary Hardin-Baylor, Belton, Texas. He also directs the UMHB Center for Religious Liberty. From 1995 to 2006 he was the Director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies, Baylor University, and from 1993 to 2006, Editor of Journal of Church and State.
Dr. Davis is a fellow, director and officer of the International Academy for Freedom of Religion and Belief, serves on the advisory council of the Interfaith Religious Liberty Foundation, is on the advisory board of The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, is a member of the Religious Liberty Council of the National Council of Churches U.S.A., is a member of the Board of Experts for the International Religious Liberty Association, is listed in Who’s Who in American Law and Who’s Who in the World, and has served as Special Counsel to the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. In 2000, he was awarded the Human Rights Achievement Award by Freedom magazine, and in 2004, the Honor of Merit by the International Religious Liberty Association for leadership in advancing religious freedom. In 2007 he was named Theologian-in–Residence by Kansas University. He is also a former Baylor University football captain and all-conference receiver.
He is the author of Original Intent: Chief Justice Rehnquist & the Course of American Church-State Relations (1991 by Prometheus Books), and Religion and the Continental Congress, 1774-1789: Contributions to Original Intent (2000 by Oxford University Press). He is the editor or coeditor of fourteen additional books, including The Role of Religion in the Making of Public Policy (1991), Legal Deskbook for Administrators of Independent Colleges and Universities (1993), Problems and Conflicts Between Law and Morality in a Free Society (1993), Genesis and the Millennium: An Essay on Religious Pluralism in the Twenty-first Century by Bill Moyers (2000), Welfare Reform and Faith-Based Organizations (1999), Religious Liberty in Northern Europe in the Twenty-first Century (2000), and International Perspectives on Freedom of Religion and Belief (2002). He is currently working on a Handbook on Church and State in the United States for Oxford University Press. He has also published more than one hundred forty articles in various law reviews, academic journals, magazines, etc.
His frequent magazine, radio, and television interviews have included those for Time Magazine, First Things, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, National Public Radio, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, CNN, the Fox News Network, CBS News, and ABC News. In recent years he has been called upon by the U.S. Congress, the Texas legislature, and United Nations emissaries for testimony relating to legal measures needed to protect religious liberty in national and international settings. He has lectured extensively before academic, public, and religious audiences on a wide range of topics including religious liberty (national and international), church-state relations (ancient, medieval, and modern), human rights, ethnic cleansing, the political role of Christianity and other religions, civil religion, nontraditional religions, religious dimensions of the American founding, law and morality, and religion and education.
Leigh Johnsen, Ph.D.
In 1984, Leigh Johnsen graduated with a doctorate in American history from the University of California, Riverside, where he studied under the direction of Edwin Scott Gaustad. His graduate work focused on the history of early modern Europe, early America, and early American Christianity.
Titled Toward Pluralism: Society and Religion in Middleborough, Massachusetts, 1690-1806, his dissertation used computerized collective biography to analyze the development of religious diversity in the hometown of noted religious dissenter Isaac Backus (1724-1806), a Baptist pastor and church-state separationist often compared in importance to Thomas Jefferson.
In 1988, Leigh joined the staff of the Salmon P. Chase Papers, a research project at Claremont Graduate University, editing the papers of Abraham Lincoln’s treasury secretary and advancing from assistant editor to senior associate editor. Simultaneously, he held the position of adjunct associate professor.
After completion of the Chase Papers project in 1998, he moved to northern California with his wife and daughter and settled in Rocklin, California. He subsequently worked as the associate editor of Spectrum magazine and as an archivist at the University of California at Davis, the University of the Pacific, and the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum.
In addition to the five-volume collection of Salmon P. Chase Papers, of which he is associate editor, he has published articles in a number of scholarly journals. He was pleased in 2003 to see publication of The Papers of Isaac Backus, a 15-reel microfilm edition that makes available approximately twenty-five hundred rare manuscript sources that comprise the personal collection of Isaac Backus.
With Special Thanks and in Remembrance
Walter B. Pontynen, M.A. (Deceased)
Prior to producing Roger Williams: Freedom’s Forgotten Hero, Walt taught high school history and government for twenty-six years. After leaving teaching he co-founded Legislative Research Inc., a firm specializing in researching the history of specific pieces of legislation for attorneys and judges involved in litigation over the interpretation of a statute. He earned Masters degrees in history and government and read extensively in the area of religious freedom and was published in numerous periodicals. His passion was liberty of conscience for all. Center for Liberty of Conscience is his legacy.