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The Ethics Center

Fresno State profs hope to encourage civil discourse
Posted at 04:45 PM on Friday, Dec. 31, 2010
By Ron Orozco / The Fresno Bee

Two members of the philosophy department at California State University, Fresno, have been awarded a $100,000 research grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities to promote civil discourse on religion and religious diversity in the central San Joaquin Valley.

Vincent F. Biondo, assistant professor of Western Religious Traditions, and Andrew Fiala, chairman of the philosophy department and director of Fresno State's Ethics Center, were named in 2011-13 grants for projects involving ethics, religion and civil discourse.

Biondo and Fiala plan to present a conference in September for religious leaders and teachers on how to civilly talk about religion in public schools. A workshop for teachers on how to implement curriculum on religion in schools is planned in the summer of 2012. Both events also are geared to humanities scholars from throughout California.

The project's goal is to educate and learn from religious leaders and teachers and to build partnerships among humanities scholars. Biondo and Fiala say they want to see the partnerships lead to the formation of scholarships for interfaith and inter-religious organizations and the development of a humanities course on "Religion in California."

"We need to know how to work together to improve life in the Valley," Biondo says.

The professors also plan a book for teaching about religious diversity.

Fiala wrote a 2007 book -- "What Would Jesus Really Do?" -- that challenges readers to take Jesus' moral teachings and supplement them with contemporary ethical writings on current situations to get their answers.

Biondo served six months as a Fulbright Scholar in Wales in 2009. He interviewed mainly Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to better understand how interfaith cooperation plays a role in the prevention of urban violence.

Fresno State's College of Arts and Humanities, the Ethics Center and the School of Education also will help present the conference and workshop.

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded a total of $23 million for projects. It was founded in 1965 as an independent agency to support research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of humanitie

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