Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion


The Public Understanding of Religion Committee fosters attention to the broad public understanding of religion and the role of religion in public life. This charge is achieved by seeking to catalyze the skills and practices among AAR members that promote the public understanding of religion and equip members to more effectively engage issues of religion in the public sphere. The Committee also collaborates with individuals and organizations to promote the public understanding of religion, by using many channels to reach many publics.

Duties and Responsibilities

Members of the Public Understanding of Religion Committee are expected to participate in the following:

  • The PUR Committee is a highly active committee that takes on a lot of projects. Each committee member is expected to do substantial work.
  • Martin E. Marty Public Understanding of Religion Award - Committee members are responsible for the annual review of nominations and selection of recipient. A Special Topics Forum is held at the Annual Meeting in November for the Marty Award recipient.
  • One representative from the PUR Committee serves on Journalism Award jury. A Special Topics Forum is held at the Annual Meeting in November for the Journalism Award recipients.
  • The PUR Committee sponsors (collaboratively with the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum) a media-skills workshop on the Friday afternoon of the Annual Meeting.
  • The PUR Committee usually sponsors or cosponsors additional Annual Meeting sessions. Generally, each member of the committee takes the lead in organizing and often presiding one or more committee events at the Annual Meeting.
  • The group often pursues collaborations with relevant Washington, DC, institutions.

Meeting Schedule

  • Once in-person at the Annual Meeting in November
  • Meets in the spring in-person each year in Washington, DC, typically for 1.5 days. The time tends to be a Thursday afternoon through Friday. Unless a committee member has no institutional funding available, members' institution typically covers their transportation (including flights/trains) to and from the meeting.

Timeline of Activities

  • Mid-February through March: heavy planning and organizing for Annual Meeting events
  • In-person PUR Committee meeting on Friday morning before the start of the Annual Meeting

Committee Members

  • Term of Service: Four years, non-renewable
  • Committee Composition: Up to six members
Full NameTerm StartTerm EndPosition
Evan Berry1/1/202012/31/2022Chair
Vincent F. Biondo, III1/1/202012/31/2023Committee Member
Alisha L. Jones1/1/202212/31/2025Committee Member
Dr. Sara Kamali1/1/202212/31/2025Committee Member
Rachel Mikva1/1/202212/31/2025Committee Member
Nathan C. Walker1/1/202012/31/2023Committee Member
Marion Pierre8/1/2018 Staff Liaison
Dorrie Toney5/5/2020 Staff Liaison