Martin E. Marty Public Understanding of Religion Award

Current and Past Winners


Yolanda Pierce, Vanderbilt Divinity School
dean at Vanderbilt Divinity School (effective July 1, 2023), founding director of the Center for African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), and renowned womanist scholar who works at the intersections of faith, race, and gender in American religion


Anthea Butler, University of Pennsylvania
professor of American social thought and chair of the department of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, known for contributing prolifically and powerfully to public digital and media conversations about religion in U.S. politics and the bravery and clarity of purpose required for the kind of public voice she has achieved


Miguel A. De La Torre, Iliff School of Theology
professor of social ethics and Latinx Studies at the Iliff School of Theology, known for years of enduring engagement with distinct public audiences outside the academy around important social and ethical issues such as immigration, race, and sexuality


Khaled Abou El Fadl, UCLA School of Law
professor of Islamic Law, known for intellectual courage, longstanding commitment to human rights, and willingness to bring academic expertise to the complex religious and political dynamics that characterized the post–9-11 era


Wade Clark Roof, University of California, Santa Barbara
sociologist of religion, founded and directed the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion and Public Life


Jacob Olupona, Harvard University
professor of African religious traditions and of African and African American studies, whose work has fostered understanding of religious pluralism in Nigerian civic, academic, religious and political spheres


Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Indiana University Bloomington
professor of religious studies and affiliate professor of law, her public scholarship and work as an expert witness have impacted courtrooms, prisons, military units, and government offices


J. Bryan Hehir, Harvard Kennedy School of Government
professor of the practice of religion and public life whose teaching and research focus on ethics and foreign policy and the role of religion in world politics and in American society


Ziba Mir-Hosseini, University of London
scholar-activist and pioneer in the field of Islamic feminism, her work bridges the divide between the academic study of Islam and public understandings of Islam, Muslims, and religious feminisms


Charles Taylor, McGill University (emeritus)
professor of political science and philosophy known for his intellectual work and public discourse in the areas of political philosophy, religion, modernity, and secularism


Wendell Berry
novelist, poet, essayist, academic, and public intellectual; a powerful voice in promoting values that extol land, critique the culture of late capitalism, and support human rights


Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Harvard Divinity School
professor of divinity, pioneer of feminist biblical interpretation and theology, co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion


Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University
professor of American Jewish History, chief historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History, and leading public commentator on American Jewish religion and life


Elaine Pagels, Princeton University
historian of religion who has made the academic study of Gnosticism and early Christian history accessible to millions through her best-selling works and public commentaries


James H. Cone, Union Theological Seminary
professor of systematic theology, creator of black liberation theology in the United States, and frequent public commentator on black theology and the African American experience


Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago Divinity School
professor of the history of religions and scholar of Hinduism and mythology: an author, editor, translator, lecturer and commentator


Robert N. Bellah, University of California at Berkeley (emeritus)
sociologist of religion and educator whose influential essays and books have for decades helped shape the academic and public discourse on religion and morality in American society


Andrew M. Greeley, University of Arizona
professor of sociology and frequent public commentator on Catholicism and religion in America


John L. Esposito, Georgetown University
professor of Islamic studies and founding director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, whose publications and public commentary have enhanced the understanding of Islam


Huston Smith, Syracuse University
professor of religion whose published work has introduced millions to the study of world religions


Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University
professor of sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion: his many publications have stimulated public discussion about religion, most recently on the public role of American Protestantism


Diana Eck, Harvard University
professor of comparative religion and Indian studies and director of The Pluralism Project, which documents the growing presence of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Zoroastrian communities in the U.S.


David Knipe, University of Wisconsin at Madison
professor of languages and cultures of Asia and public television producer and public radio commentator on religion


Eileen V. Barker, London School of Economics
sociologist of religion and founder of INFORM, an organization using scholarly research as a basis for informing news media, government officials, and the public about new religious movements


Cornel West, Harvard University
philosopher of religion, writing on issues that particularly confront African Americans


Harvey Cox, Harvard University
sociologist of religion who writes on social and political issues that confront Christianity


Walter Capps (deceased)
psychologist of religion and member of Congress


Martin E. Marty, University of Chicago (emeritus)
historian and frequent public commentator on American religion