State legislative leaders to discuss how faith, politics intersect at Benedictine

October 11, 2013

Lisle, Illinois ~ When it comes to voting on an issue affecting the general populace, is it possible for politicians to set aside their own deeply-held religious beliefs or does their faith guide them in the decision-making process?

How does their faith inform their political views and influence their abilities as a leader representing the interests of the people?


How legislative leaders reconcile their faith within their role as policymakers will be the focus of the lecture and panel discussion, “Catholic Identities and Public Policymaking: The View from Illinois,” at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 24 in the Krasa Presentation Room at Benedictine University.
Photo 2 - Mike Connelly  

The event is sponsored by the Center for Mission and Identity, the University’s vehicle for reinforcing the Catholic intellectual tradition on campus, and the Center for Civic Leadership.

Understanding how religion plays a role in the political arena is something all citizens should be aware of as informed members of an electorate, according to Vince Gaddis, Ph.D., professor of History at Benedictine.

“We live within a political culture, and the Catholic and Benedictine tradition cannot be seen as above or outside of politics,”

Gaddis said. “We need to see how people of faith work within that public domain. Faith and politics are not things that we put in silos in our brains. They both have to be negotiated within the culture that is America, the culture that is this campus and the culture that is Illinois.

“I’m hoping people will recognize that there is a place for religious people within the political sphere and that being committed to one’s faith is not at odds with legislating for the common good,” he added.
Photo - OLD Linda Chapa LaVia

Speakers include state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), state Sen. Michael Connelly (R-Naperville) and Christine Fletcher, Ph.D., associate professor of Theology at Benedictine University. The lecture will be moderated by Phil Hardy, assistant professor of Political Science at Benedictine.

The event is free and open to the public, but seating is expected to be limited.

Chapa LaVia is currently serving her sixth term as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives and is chairwoman of the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. She was the chief sponsor of the 2011 landmark education reform bill dictating how school districts should reward and hold teachers accountable for student performance, and provide public disclosure of the collective bargaining process in the event of an impasse or strike.

She is currently on Inactive Ready Reserve with the National Guard and is a licensed managing real estate broker with Chapa Realty in Aurora.

Connelly is currently serving his first term in the Illinois Senate after serving two terms in the Illinois House of Representatives. Photo - Christine FletcherHe serves on committees for Labor and Commerce, Appropriation I, Licensed Activities and Pensions, Criminal Law and Human Services. He is also the minority spokesman for the Senate Human Services Committee.

Connelly previously served as an assistant state’s attorney for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and as a law clerk to Justice Allan Stouder of the Illinois Appellate Court. He has been in private practice law for more than 20 years.

Fletcher is an associate professor of Theology at Benedictine University.

She earned a master’s degree in Politics and Philosophy from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in Theology with subspecialties in business ethics and literature from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England.

While living in England, she occasionally appeared on BBC1's “Heaven and Earth” television program discussing ethical questions. Her academic presentations include a paper she presented at a conference at the Vatican sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 2005.

For more information, visit


Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 17 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country's fastest-growing campuses between 2000-2010 in The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of private nonprofit research institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the third consecutive year in 2013. Benedictine University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area in 2013.

Marketing and Communications

Gary Kohn
Assoc. Vice President of Marketing and Communications
(630) 829-6095