College’s Constitution Week to Feature Discussions, Films

OSWEGO — A variety of events will look at freedoms ranging from speech to religion as part of SUNY Oswego’s Constitution Week celebration, Sept. 12 to 16.

Zainab Al-Suwaji, executive director of the American Islamic Congress, will keynote Constitution Week observances at SUNY Oswego, speaking about freedom of religion and the free-exercise clause on at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, in the Campus Center auditorium.

A political refugee from Iraq and advocate for interfaith understanding, Al-Suwaji will speak about her life in Iraq, her perspective on religious tolerance and differences between the United States and Europe on such issues as minaret laws and burqa laws.

Thad Mantaro, SUNY Oswego’s civic engagement coordinator, said the college has sought “new, dynamic opportunities to connect the campus and community with the Constitution.”

Among other events events during Constitution Week:

* Tuesday, Sept. 13: At 7 p.m. in Room 201 of the Campus Center, a screening of “Knocking” will take place. Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, has said the film “affirms the principle that in a free society, the protection of religious liberty and the advancement of personal freedoms need not be competing values.” A facilitated discussion will follow.

* Wednesday, Sept. 14: At noon in the Lake Effect Cafe in Penfield Library, student leaders will debate creation of a Muslim cultural center at Park 51, formerly known as Cordoba House, two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, destroyed in terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. James Scharfenberger, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, will speak about the history of Constitution Week prior to the debate. Also on Wednesday, faculty will present as part of a panel discussion titled “Democracy and Freedom of Religion,” at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center auditorium.

* Thursday, Sept. 15: At 7 p.m. in Room 201 of the Campus Center, the PBS documentary film “God in America” will be screened, providing “the foundation for understanding the historical context of religion and rights in America,” Mantaro said.

Students also can take the Constitution Challenge mini-quiz from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday in the Campus Center concourse to learn more about this foundational document. Throughout the week, Penfield Library will host a freedom of religion display featuring faculty work. Free pocket versions of the Constitution will be available at all events.

All events are free and open to the public. Parking is free in campus lots during the evening events of Constitution Week.