in the Department of Philosophy and Religion

Dialogue Initiative: Policy Talks

Dialogue Initiative: Policy Talks

April 26

Bryant Hall, Rm. 209

5:30 pm with reception to follow in the Bryant Gallery at 7:00 pm

Topic: Religious Freedom Laws

For Policy Talks, three panelists (two alumni of the Philosophy and Religion Department as well as one regional leader) each offer a short proposal on a contentious and real-world issue (topics vary by year). Panelists discuss what they think the best approach or resolution would be to address the issue given their expertise. After the panelists each give their presentations, a second panel of University of Mississippi faculty pose questions to the initial panelists and a brief conversation among all the panelists. The audience may submit questions to any of the panelists (guests or UM faculty) screened by a moderator (to ensure relevance, clarity, civility). Following the panel of speakers and Q and A session is a catered reception at which attendees continue the conversation with panelists informally.

The common reading resource (click for PDF) for this event is the Honors thesis of Religion major Samuel Brassell. This thesis provides an analysis of religious freedom laws in the state of Mississippi. We encourage all attendees to read this common reading resource prior to the event for a more focused conversation during the Q and A session and during the reception.


Invited Panelists:

1. C.J. Rhodes, 2004 alumnus of Philosophy and Religion

Minister Rhodes is currently a minister in Jackson, MS at the Mount Helm Baptist Church. His father was the civil rights attorney Carroll Rhodes Sr. He was not only a student in the Department of Philosophy and Religion while at the University of Mississippi, but also worked at the William Winter Institute of Racial Reconciliation and served on the Chancellor’s Committee for Respect and Sensitivity. In 2010, he became the youngest pastor at Mount Helm Baptist Church and has received praise for instituting innovative programs. He has published columns in the Jackson Free Press and the Mississippi Link and hosts The CJ Rhodes Show on WRBJ on 97.7 FM. For additional information, please see:


2. Eleanor Ruffner, 2001 alumna of Philosophy and Religion

Ms. Ruffner is currently a lawyer and partner in Ruffner Schoenbaum PLLC and specializes in commercial litigation in Texas. In addition to her law practice, she also teaches as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Law. She has been named as the 2018 Texas Super Lawyer and the 2018 Texas Rising Star. For more information, please see:


3. Richard Howorth, Mayor of Oxford (2001-2009)

Mr. Howorth is the founder and current owner of Square Books in Oxford, MS which is one of the largest independent bookstores in the United States. He was the former chairman of the American Booksellers Association, and currently serves on the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority. For additional information, please see:


UM Faculty Panelists:

1. Sarah Moses, Associate Professor of Religion, College of Liberal Arts, University of Mississippi

Dr. Moses received her PhD in religious ethics from Boston College.  Her research and teaching interests focus on bioethics, ethics and aging, comparative religious ethics, and social ethics.  Her book Ethics and the Elderly: The Challenge of Long-Term Care (2015) was awarded the “Best First Book” award by the Society of Christian Ethics in 2018. For additional information, please see:


2. Matthew Hall, Associate Professor of Law, School of Law, University of Mississippi

Dr. Hall focuses his teaching and research on the intersection of criminal law and procedure, immigration, and national security.  He serves as faculty advisor to the School of Law’s Moot Court Board, which has won fifteen national championships in the past decade. Over the years, he has taught constitutional law, administrative law, and future law.  He also teaches in the first-year seminar program at the Honors College.  He is an elder in Presbyterian Church USA and recently wrapped up twelve years of service on the national denomination’s Advisory Committee on Litigation, offering guidance on positions the church should take in cases before the Supreme Court.  Before joining the faculty at UM, he served at the U.S. Department of Justice and specialized in national security and counter-terrorism matters.  For additional information, please see:


3. Amy McDowell, Assistant Professor of Sociology, College of Liberal Arts, University of Mississippi

Dr. McDowell focuses her research and teaching on religion, gender, sexuality, and race. Her previous work focused on how young Christian men use punk rock music to construct religious space in secular settings and on how Muslim youth use punk to resist anti-Muslim racism. She published this research in Gender & SocietySociology of ReligionQualitative Sociology, and Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. McDowell’s current research takes a qualitative approach to understanding the relationship between American evangelical church culture and gender/sexual politics in the Deep South. For additional information, please see:


Sponsored By:

The University Lecture Series

The Self Family

The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement

The Department of Philosophy and Religion

The Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Hume Bryant Chair of Ethics