Who We Are

The “American Charter of Freedom of Religion and Conscience” is joint initiative between Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion and the Religious Freedom Institute (Washington, DC).

Launched in August 2004, The Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) exists to initiate, support, and conduct research on religion, involving scholars and projects spanning the intellectual spectrum: history, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, philosophy, epidemiology, theology, and religious studies. ISR’s mandate extends to all religions, everywhere, and throughout history. It also embraces the study of religious effects on such things as prosocial behavior, family life, population health, economic development, and social conflict. While always striving for appropriate scientific objectivity, our scholars treat religion with the respect that sacred matters require and deserve. See more at: http://www.baylorisr.org

The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) is a DC-based non-profit organization committed to achieving broad acceptance of religious liberty as a fundamental human right, the cornerstone of a successful society, and a source of national and international security. The RFI works on the ground with stakeholders in select regions, including the United States, to build coalitions and work toward making religious freedom a priority for governments, civil society, religious communities, businesses, and the general public.

The project is funded with a generous donation by the Templeton Religion Trust.

The Team

Byron R. Johnson, Project Director

Byron Johnson is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. He is the founding director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR). He is a Faculty Scholar in the Center for Spirituality, Theology, and Health at Duke University, Senior Fellow with the Witherspoon Institute (Princeton), Senior Fellow at the Sagamore Institute (Indianapolis), and is a Senior Advisor at the Religious Freedom Institute (Washington, DC).  Before joining the faculty at Baylor University, Johnson directed research centers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Johnson is a former member of the Coordinating Council for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (Presidential Appointment). Johnson has recently published a number of articles on the role of faith and service in helping addicts remain sober. He is recognized as a leading authority on the scientific study of religion, the efficacy of faith-based organizations, and criminal justice. Recent publications have examined the impact of faith-based programs on offender treatment, recidivism reduction and prisoner reentry and is the subject of his book, More God, Less Crime (2011). Johnson also directs the Program on Prosocial Behavior, which examines the ways in which religion impacts key behaviors like volunteerism, generosity, and purpose. His most recent book, The Angola Prison Seminary (2016), assesses the influence of a Bible College and inmate-led congregations in the identity transformation of inmates serving life in a maximum security prison. His new book, The Quest for Purpose, will be released summer 2017. He is working with the Gallup Organization to design empirical studies exploring religion and spirituality in the world. Johnson was the 2013 Lone Star Big Brother of the year for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas.

Timothy Samuel Shah, Senior Advisor

Timothy Samuel Shah is Senior Advisor and Director of the South and Southeast Asia Action Team at the Religious Freedom Institute. He previously was the director for international research of the Religious Freedom Research Project, associate director of the Berkley Center’s Religious Freedom Project and associate professor of the practice of religion and global politics in Georgetown University’s Government Department. He is a political scientist specializing in religious freedom as well as in the broad relationship between religious and political dynamics in theory, history, and contemporary practice. He is author of Even if There is No God: Hugo Grotius and the Secular Foundations of Modern Political Liberalism (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2017) and, with Monica Duffy Toft and Daniel Philpott, of God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics (W.W. Norton, 2011). His articles on religion and global politics have appeared in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Journal of Democracy, Review of Politics, and elsewhere.

Os Guinness, Co-Chair

Os Guinness is a prolific author, social critical and former Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies, Visiting Fellow at the Brooking Institution, and Senior Fellow at the EastWest Institute in New York. He is currently a senior fellow at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics in Oxford. Guinness has published on a wide range of topics, writing or editing more than thirty books, including The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity (2013). He gained notoriety for his efforts drafting the “Global Charter of Conscience,” which was published at the European Union Parliament in 2012, and the 1986 “Williamsburg Charter,” which was signed by Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and Coretta Scott King, among other American leaders. Both charters affirmed the fundamental value of religious freedom and called for reinvigorated debate on the role of religion in the public square.

William A. Galston, Co-Chair

William A. Galston holds the Ezra K. Zilkha Chair in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, where he serves as a senior fellow, and is College Park Professor at the University of Maryland. A former policy advisor to President Clinton and presidential candidates, Galston is an expert on domestic policy, political campaigns, and elections. His current research focuses on designing a new social contract and the implications of political polarization. Galston is the author of eight books and more than 100 articles in the fields of political theory, public policy, and American politics. His most recent books are Liberal Pluralism: The Implications of Value Pluralism for Political Theory and Practice (Cambridge, 2002), The Practice of Liberal Pluralism (Cambridge, 2004), and Public Matters: Politics, Policy and Religion in the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005).

Jack Friedman, Project Manager

Jack Friedman is the Baylor ISR project manager for the American Charter Project. Prior to joining ISR as project manager, Jack worked as research assistant for the Religious Freedom Research Project at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Jack holds an M.A. in philosophy from American University (Washington, DC), and a B.A. from Elon University (Elon, NC).