By ALEX SPENCE
Students and faculty will gather to celebrate the freedom of religious expression on Jan. 29 at the 2015 Jefferson Lecture. The lecture commemorates the Virginia Statute, which allows for individuals to worship freely in whichever religion they choose. The lecture will take place at the University of Mary Washington on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium.
According to Craig Vasey, chair of the classics, philosophy and religion department, the goal of the lecture is to “expose [students] to new ideas and points of view [and] expand understanding.”
Last year’s lecture event saw over 700 people in attendance, with UMW students making up approximately 50 percent of the crowd.
Vasey said he hopes even more will attend this year, as he said he believes it is in students’ best interest to take advantage of the free intellectual events that are available to them.
This year’s guest speaker is Douglas Laycock, a prominent professor of law at the University of Virginia. Laycock’s lecture will address religious freedom and the culture-war. This annual lecture is to raise awareness of the Virginia Statute and understand it through multiple viewpoints.
Religious freedom is an important topic not only to adults, but also to students. The impact religious freedom has on each person varies, but for sophomore business major Connor Hudson, it impacts his life through his friends.
“I have friends who are Jewish, Catholic, Muslim and Christian. I don’t judge them, and they don’t judge me,” said Hudson.
As for freshman Nicole Spreeman, the ability to choose for herself is most impactful to her.
“I don’t necessarily identify myself with any one religion, but it is important that I have the choice,” said Spreeman.
Neither Hudson nor Spreeman were aware that the Jefferson Lecture was an annual event.
“It is worth being aware of,” said Vasey.
The city of Fredericksburg is also hosting a separate event in honor of the Virginia Statute. On Sunday, Feb. 1, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will speak on religious freedom at 2 p.m. on Washington Avenue. Following Cuccinelli’s, speech a celebration will be held at Central Rappahannock Regional Library Headquarters.