America’s self-proclaimed largest religious freedom legal organization, the First Liberty Institute, chose sophomore Katarina Bradford’s essay as its model for teaching millennials about religious freedom.
Bradford will intern for the First Liberty Institute during the summer in Plano, Texas, take part in
social media outreach to millennials, and will travel to different universities to discuss her work.
As one of six students selected from across the country to participate in a First Liberty Fellowship, Bradford attended a conference in Washington, D.C., in November. The students then wrote research papers about how to understand millennial culture and beliefs. The institute chose Bradford’s from the six to use as a model for its outreach.
“Bradford’s project was a good insight into reaching millennials more strategically,” said Stephanie Reyes, director of program strategy for the First Liberty Fellowship. “We were really fascinated by her input.”
Bradford, a philosophy and German major, said all the participants in the fellowship studied politics except her, which allowed her to provide a unique, philosophical look at millennials and their understanding of religious liberty.
“One of the biggest themes I came across in my research is that the millennial generation has lost its trust in institutions,” Bradford said.
She said this included corporations, governments, and churches. Her research found that millennials want to express their beliefs as individuals separate from institutions. This is where Bradford said there was an opportunity to convince millennials about the importance of religious freedom.
“If the government prohibits the church from exercising its religion, then that poses a fundamental threat to the millennial culture, as well,” Bradford said. “They don’t want to lose their freedom of expression or individuality.”
Bradford said she suggested appeals to the “selfish nature” of millennials — to show them why religious liberty is good for them, even if they are not religious. She also said millennials need anecdotal stories rather than policy essays to persuade them.
Although Bradford wrote this research essay by herself, she said Professor of Philosophy Nathan Schlueter influenced her ideas.
Schlueter said Bradford is a great individual to carry this message of religious liberty to millennials because of her “humility, which is not squishy, and firmness of principle, which is not offensive.”
Bradford will attend a conference at Pepperdine University on March 17-18 to discuss her ideas about communicating religious liberty.