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University of Iowa News Release


April 9, 2007

New York Times Religion Editor Participates In Conference April 20, 21

New York Times religion editor Laurie Goodstein (photo, left) will visit the University of Iowa to join several distinguished scholars for the conference "European Religion/American Religion: Why the Difference?" Friday, April 20, and Saturday, April 21.

The conference is free and open to the public. Events begin each day at 9:30 a.m. in the International Commons, Room 1117 of the University Capitol Centre in the Old Capitol Town Center. This conference is a University of Iowa International Programs' Major Projects Grant funded conference.

Jeffrey Cox (photo, right), conference leader and UI history professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said his lifelong interest in the contrast between religious vigor in the United States and a seeming lack of it in Europe is one of his primary motives for organizing the conference, as was a column Goodstein wrote in January 2006.

"She brought up the phenomenon of empty churches in Europe and posed the question, not in terms of why are the American people so prone to talking in religious language, but what's going on with European Christianity in particular," Cox said.

A third motive for Cox's interest was the election of President George W. Bush in 2000, after which he said many Europeans began to look at the United States and question the use of religious language in politics and the big business of some church denominations as unusual, abnormal and menacing.

"I hope the public will join us for a free-ranging conversation," Cox said. "The conference format will be informal, so people should feel free to say things they don't necessarily need to verify or corroborate."

Goodstein joined the Times in 1997 after eight years at the Washington Post. She has covered clergy sexual abuse; government funding of faith-based charities; and the conflicts over gay marriage, abortion and stem cell research, among other topics related to religion.

Other participants include Dipesh Chakrabarty, professor of history and South Asian studies at the University of Chicago; David Hempton, professor of evangelical theological studies at Harvard Divinity School; Hugh McLeod, professor of church history at the University of Birmingham, U.K.; Mark Noll, professor of history at the University of Notre Dame; and Susan Thorne, professor of history at Duke University.

All conference events take place in the International Commons, Room 1117 of the University Capitol Centre. A conference schedule is available at

For more information or special accommodations to attend this conference, contact Heidi Vekemans at or call 319-335-3862. Those wishing to attend the breakfast events should contact Vekemans by Monday, April 16.

The religion panel discussions are a UI International Programs Major Project Conference, which is also sponsored by the UI Departments of History, Religious Studies and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Law.

International Programs enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity and give all University constituents access to vital international knowledge.

For more information, visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Joe Nugent, 319-335-2026,; Program: Jeffrey Cox, 319-335-2298,; Writer: Joe Nugent.