The Washington Times hosted a symposium on Tuesday where experts discussed the importance of family, religion and moral integrity to the nation’s future as part of a celebration of the paper’s 30th anniversary.
The forum, titled “Renewing Our Common Legacy” and held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, featured activists, pundits and interfaith religious leaders who engaged in four panel discussions, each centered on one of the paper’s four founding principles: family, faith, freedom and service.
Discussions covered a wide range of social and political topics, from marriage to government involvement in religious charities, as panelists explored what many of them described as the necessary balance between celebrating tolerance and personal freedom while preserving many of the country’s traditional values.
“Freedom must be understood within the context of constitutional and moral order, which means reasonable limits and cultural bounds,” said Matthew Spalding, vice president of American studies at the Heritage Foundation and participant in the “Freedom” discussion. “Liberty means the right to exercise balancing rights and responsibilities.”
The symposium kicked off a day of celebrating the birth of The Washington Times, which was founded in 1982 with the goal of being an editorially conservative counterpoint to papers like The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Tuesday’s festivities were capped by a discussion led by conservative author David Limbaugh and then a banquet hosted by John Stossel of Fox Business Network and featuring former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.
During the symposium, several panelists stressed the importance of traditional institutions, including religion, marriage and charity, contending that many Americans are turning away from them and thus contributing to national declines in education and familial stability.
Maggie Gallagher, former president of the National Organization for Marriage, said a decline in two-parent households is setting back future generations.
Children born into traditional families “will at least begin life with both a mother and father committed to caring for them in one family,” she said. “Almost no child in any other kind of union gets that great good.”
Most panelists took politically and socially conservative viewpoints toward addressing the nation’s problems, as participants in the “Freedom” and “Service” panels argued for smaller government and fewer constraints on private organizations.
However, countering opinions were expressed by panelists including Rabbi David Saperstein, who argued in favor of the government requiring religious organizations that receive public funding to adopt federal policies of providing contraception and allowing adoption by gays.
“Substitute for gays and lesbians or [single] women, ‘Jews and blacks,’ and ask yourself would that discrimination hold,” he said. “Would we stand for someone to say with government money you can discriminate against blacks because that church thinks they are inferior?”
An overriding theme throughout the symposium was the need for a delicate balance in America between helping the disadvantaged while equipping them with the skills and self-reliance to help themselves.
“People of faith, of course, have to accept that our principal purpose on this earth is to feed the hungry and cloth the naked,” said Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. “But the highest level of charity is to give a man a job so he earns his own way.”