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Vanderbilt Divinity discussion: Can a Mormon Be President?

by Apr. 16, 2012, 8:40 AM

Kathleen Flake (Steve Long)

Kathleen Flake, a religious historian who teaches and writes about the interaction between American religion and law, will speak April 24 at a Vanderbilt Divinity School Community Breakfast.

Flake’s talk, “Can a Mormon Be President: Test Oaths and the 2012 Presidential Election,” will be from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. in the Divinity School’s Reading Room.

As a divinity professor and attorney, Flake has a unique perspective on the issues surrounding the separation of church and state. She noted that the U.S. Constitution bans the administration of religious tests for federal public office. However, voters have always been free to carry out their own “tests” of candidates by whatever standards they wished, including religious ones. These “tests” traditionally remained a private expression of individual beliefs.

During her talk, Flake will look at the recent trend in presidential politics for public, highly organized efforts to base voter support on candidates’ religious beliefs. Questions to consider include whether this is a legitimate way to evaluate political candidates and if we should be concerned.

Flake is the author of The Politics of Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle, which explores the national outrage a century ago when an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was elected a senator from Utah. She has done numerous media interviews about the presidential candidacies of Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.

Prior to her appointment at Vanderbilt, Flake was a litigation attorney in Washington, D.C.

There is a $10 charge for the breakfast, which is open to the public. Reservations are requested by April 20. Please call 615-936-8453 or visit


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