Zainab Al-Suwaij is co-founder and executive director of the American Islamic Congress whose mission is to build interfaith and interethnic understanding and represent the diversity of American Muslim life. As an advocate for women’s equality, civil rights, and interfaith understanding, she left her teaching position at Yale University after the 911 terror attacks to launch AIC. Zainab was named an “Ambassador of Peace” by the Interreligious and International Peace Council, recognized as the “International Person of the Year” by the National Liberty Museum, and received Dialogue on Diversity’s Liberty Award. She has briefed Congress and the White House on Muslim issues, has published editorials in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has appeared on NPR, the BBC, Al-Jazeera, and other radio and television networks.
Bethany Brittain grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and is a survivor of religious child maltreatment. As prescribed by church leaders, her parents used corporal punishment on Bethany and her three siblings starting in infancy, and frequent and severe beatings continued into their teen years. After having been home schooled in isolation and groomed to be a submissive wife, she left home in her late teens, obtained a college degree in instructional design, and transcended her abusive childhood. Today, Bethany creates training programs for corporations and specializes in adult learning.
Rev. Carla Cheatham, PhD, is an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ and a hospice chaplain, and she has devoted much of her career to counseling at-risk youth. She also owns and operates Carla Cheatham Consulting Group, which provides training in culturally competent and sensitive interfaith spiritual care to healthcare workers nationwide. Carla understands the needs of abuse survivors, as she suffered religious spurning as a child. She found refuge among members of her Southern Baptist Church, but when she came out as a lesbian at the age of twenty-one, she was rejected by church members. Carla received an M.A. in Psychology at Stephen F. Austin State University, a doctorate in Health and Kinesiology from Texas A&M University, and a Master’s of Divinity at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.
Lisa Aronson Fontes, PhD, has dedicated two decades to making the mental health, social service, and criminal justice systems more responsive to culturally diverse people. She has written numerous journal articles and chapters on cultural issues in child maltreatment and violence against women, cross-cultural research, and ethics. Lisa is the author of Interviewing Clients Across Cultures: A Practitioner’s Guide and Child Abuse and Culture: Working with Diverse Families and teaches at the University Without Walls at the University of Massachusetts. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, she has conducted research in Santiago, Chile, and with Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and European Americans in the United States.
Marci A. Hamilton, JD, is one of the United States’ leading church/state scholars and holds the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University. She specializes in religious organizations and individuals that violate the law; the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses; and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and its state counterparts. Marci is the author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty and Justice Denied: What American Must Do to Protect Its Children. She is the recipient of the National Crime Victim Bar Association’s Frank Carrington Champion of Civil Justice Award; the E. Nathaniel Gates Award for outstanding public advocacy and scholarship; and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Pro Bono Legal Service to veterans groups.
Steven Hassan has been educating the public about mind control, controlling groups, and destructive cults since 1976. At the age of nineteen, he was deceptively recruited into the Unification Church. After serving as a high-ranking official in the organization, Steven escaped through deprogramming. Later, he founded the Freedom of Mind Resource Center and authored several books on how cults harm adults and children, including Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs. Steven addresses hundreds of campus, religious, and professional organizations throughout the world and is often asked by the media to answer questions about mind control. He is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a Nationally Certified Counselor.
Janet Heimlich founded the Child-Friendly Faith Project in 2012. She is an award-winning journalist and the author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, which examines child abuse and neglect in America that is enabled by certain kinds of religious belief. Janet has been a freelance reporter for National Public Radio and has written nonfiction articles for such publications as Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman, and the Texas Observer. She has won nine journalism awards, including the regional Katie, the State Bar of Texas’ Gavel Award, and a “Radio Journalist of the Year” Lone Star Award. Janet graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in communications.
Rev. Charles Foster Johnson is a Baptist minister and the founder and pastor of Bread, a non-traditional faith community in Fort Worth, Texas. Throughout his thirty-year pastoral ministry, he has served churches in Mississippi, Kentucky and Texas. Charles attended Mississippi College and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he was a Rice-Judson Scholar. He was ordained by the First Baptist Church of Pontotoc, Mississippi in 1980. In 2004, the Baptist Center for Ethics named Charles “Baptist of the Year.” In 2008, he was inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers of Moorehouse College. Charles preaches and speaks at universities, churches, and business organizations about numerous children’s issues, including education and safety.
Paul A. Offit, MD, is the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is also Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine RotaTeq, recommended for universal use in infants by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Paul is the recipient of many awards, such as the J. Edmund Bradley Prize for Excellence in Pediatrics from the University of Maryland Medical School and a Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health, as well as the President’s Certificate for Outstanding Service from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Paul has published more than 140 papers in medical and scientific journals and numerous books in the areas of vaccine safety.
David Pittman is the executive director of Together We Heal, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to provide cost-free counseling and guidance for those who suffer from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. TWH pairs survivors with mental health services by working with therapists in private practice, religious organizations, and governmental agencies. Through its efforts, survivors overcome trauma so that they can heal and thrive. David raises awareness of this issue through public speaking and collaborating with other advocacy groups, exposing sexual predators and their methods. He is also the South Florida Area Support Group Leader for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and a member of the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress.
Rev. Jaime Romo is a commissioned minister in the United Church of Christ for Healing and Healthy Environments in San Diego, a certified primordial sound meditation instructor with the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, and an active member of the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care. He earned his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of San Diego. Following a career of teaching children from kindergarten through high school, Jaime—who is a survivor of child sexual abuse—develops and implements safe policies and healing community practices for churches and trains parents, volunteers, and employees on abuse prevention. He is the author of Healing the Sexually Abused Heart: A Workbook for Survivors, Thrivers, and Supporters, Parents Preventing Abuse, and Teachers Preventing Abuse.
Rev. Patricia Ross, CPM, is an Episcopal clergyperson who retired from a career in training and organizational development so she could fulfill her dream to become a midwife. Today, she is a Certified Professional Midwife and the education director of Midwives on Missions of Service (MOMS), which has made significant improvements in maternal and neonatal mortality in Sierra Leone, Africa. MOMS’ model draws from Patricia’s studies in ethics and practical experience in business and nonprofit organizations providing her a unique perspective on how to conduct humanitarian efforts in a way that honors the culture undergoing change.
Peter Singer, MSW, LICSW, is the director of Care in Action Minnesota, a nonprofit organization that helps faith communities reach out to children and families impacted by child maltreatment. As a boy, Peter was greatly affected by a terrible tragedy suffered by a childhood friend and his family. The realization that it might have been prevented had his church community and child protection services worked together led him to seek solutions in the field of child protection. Peter also serves as a Clinical Supervisor with the counseling network Family Innovations, where his counseling practice focuses on children who have been impacted by traumatic events.
Scott Solary and Luci Westphal are the directors of All God’s Children, the acclaimed documentary that will be shown at the conference Thursday evening at 8pm. The film tells the gripping story of the first Christian missionary boarding school to be investigated for widespread abuse. Survivors and parents share their journey of seeking justice, redemption, and healing. Together, Scott and Luci run the production company Good Hard Working People.
Basyle ’Boz’ Tchividjian, JD, is the executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), an organization that educates and trains Christian communities in child abuse and conducts investigations of abuse cases. The grandson of the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, Boz is also a professor at Liberty University School of Law. From 1994 to 2001, he served as Florida’s assistant state attorney general, which included serving as Chief Prosecutor in the Sexual Crimes Division. As a member of GRACE’s board of directors, Boz has helped create relationships with other Christian organizations that are committed to empowering the Christian community to recognize and respond to cases of child abuse through education and training.