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Baylor president stresses religion's need during Marshall stop

By MIKE ELSWICK melswick@news-journal.com
Feb. 28, 2011 at 11 p.m.


MARSHALL - While many decry the role of religion in American society, Kenneth W. Starr on Monday evening said religion and religious freedom are important and recurring themes in societies through the centuries.

Faith in all too many instances has fallen by the wayside along with reason, said Starr, who received widespread publicity for his tenure as independent counsel while Bill Clinton was U.S. president.

Starr spoke Monday night on the East Texas Baptist University campus for the 2011 Sam B. Hall Lecture and Banquet program. The title of his presentation was "Faith and Reason in the Public Square," which he said was appropriate to the national arena of politics today.

Starr currently serves as the president of Baylor University in Waco and is on the board of trustees at the Baylor College of Medicine. Prior to that he served as a federal court of appeals judge.

Best known for his role as an independent counsel during the term of President Bill Clinton, Starr investigated the suicide death of White House counsel Vince Foster, the Whitewater real estate investments of Clinton and he filed the Starr Report, which alleged Clinton had lied about the existence of an affair during a sworn deposition.

During his presentation Monday, Starr paid no reference to those years. Instead, he focused on the role religion has played in civilization up until present times.

Starr said while many people place high importance on science there remain many unanswered questions.

"Science simply does not answer the fundamental question of what am I here for?" Starr said. "What happens after we die? Science has no answer."

Starr said many governments have come to power that have attempted to quell the role of religion in the human experience. But since biblical times, religion has always managed to resurface and emerge as strong or stronger.

"There are a lot of tension in this discussion of separation of church and state," he said. But history has taught humanity that religion is not going to go away.

"We're always bringing God back to all spheres of our activities," he said. "Religion is not only an integral part of culture – it transforms culture."

"In our lifetime, one of the most striking example of faith-based reform has been in desegregation and the civil rights movement," he said. "In century after century, science and human reason did not triumph, but religion has survived."

Prior to Starr's speech, Ray and Mona Lawson were named as recipients of the Sam B. Hall Jr. Civic Service Award at the event by ETBU President Dub Oliver and ETBU Provost Sherilyn Emberton.

The couple were recognized for 60 years of community service since their arrival in Marshall in 1950.

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