Pastor Vincent Dial, left, welcomes Rodney Smith to Jonesborough.

By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

arau@heraldandtribune.com

Bethel Christian Church received a distinguished guest Saturday morning, as the Director of the Center for Constitutional Studies at Utah Valley University, Rodney K. Smith, spoke to a group of local residents about his latest book, “James Madison: The Father of Religious Freedom.”

In a press release for the event, Smith said, “James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, considered the right of religious conscience to be our most ‘sacred Property.’  Madison’s message is as relevant today as it was when he fathered the First Amendment.”

Smith was visiting a long-time friend and Jonesborough resident who suggested he give a talk to interested members of his church, Bethel Christian.

Currently on day four of his book tour, Smith agreed and spent Saturday morning in a lively discussion about James Madison and his importance to America.

Smith said he became interested in Madison when he was writing his dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania. While researching his paper, he was pointed to an old biography of Madison and after reading the book, determined that he wanted to learn more about him, as well as write about him.

“This book has been a dream and I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to do it,” Smith said. “Now, because I’ve moved to the center, I’ve been able to finish the book and also the book that will follow it.”

As the director of the Center for Constitutional Studies, Smith believes that increasing awareness and knowledge about the Constitution is very important and believes America’s free government and the rule of law are in jeopardy without increased constitutional understanding.

“The Constitution is the foundation of the rule of law that secures rights and equality for all.”

He also cites a recent Annenberg poll which revealed that only 38 percent of American citizens could name all three of the branches of government and 35 percent could not name a single branch.

In his role as director, “the Center is committed to maintaining the standard of excellence and nonpartisanship … as it fulfilled its charge to be a nationally recognized leader in the effort to increase constitutional understanding.”

Smith’s most recent book on the subject of James Madison and his importance to religious freedom will be followed by an already completed work on a similar subject. Concerning James Madison and his wife, Dollie, Smith said the next book is “an unlikely love story that saved America.”

Smith is married and has eight grown children. He said his original plan was to speak at the Department of Education in Washington D.C., but would have required a two week trip, much too long to be away from his family.