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U.Va. Center for Politics and Batten School Present Constitution Day on Thursday

September 13, 2010 — The University of Virginia's Center for Politics and its Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy will present a Constitution Day event on Thursday.

Batten School Dean Harry Harding will lead a panel discussion about contemporary issues relating to the Bill of Rights, with a specific focus on the First Amendment and the delicate balancing act needed to manage both the free exercise and establishment clauses.

The panel will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature and Culture/Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. The event is free and open to the public. A question-and-answer session will follow the discussion.

Panelists will include:

•    Kim Colby, senior counsel at the Christian Legal Society;
•    Douglas Laycock, Armistead M. Dobie Professor of Law and Horace W. Goldsmith Research Professor of Law at U.Va.;
•    William Rhatican, master teacher at the Constitutional Academy and former aide to President Nixon;
•    Josh Wheeler, associate director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

"Our Constitution and the Bill of Rights are brilliant founding documents for our country, but they can give rise to lively controversy and debate," Harding said. "Recent controversies over holiday displays on government property, the construction of an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York, and the denial of government funding and official recognition to religious groups at a state university are but the most recent examples of these constitutional controversies."

Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics, said, "An annual reexamination of the Constitution is undoubtedly worthwhile, especially with the assistance and insight of such able scholars."

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