Dordt College News

Koldenhoven speaks at Dordt in defense of religious freedom

February 11, 2010


Taking a stand against religious discrimination cost Dean Koldenhoven an election. It also earned him a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

On Monday, March 1, Koldenhoven will reflect upon and share insights about the experience that catapulted him into the national spotlight. He will give two presentations at Dordt College, an 11 a.m. lecture in the B.J. Haan Auditorium and a 7:30 p.m. talk in the Science and Technology Building lecture hall SB 101. Both events are open to the public.

“The Church/Mosque Conflict in Palos Heights: a Christian Response to Neighborhood Diversity,” will be Koldenhoven’s morning topic. His Monday evening topic is, “Responding to Immigrants and Cultural Diversity.”

Dean Koldenhoven was the mayor of Palos Heights, Illinois, in 2000 when a decision to speak out against religious discrimination in his community became headline news. Mayor Koldenhoven was three years into his term when it became public knowledge that the Al Salam Mosque Foundation had decided to purchase a vacant church in that suburb for use as a mosque and Islamic Center.

Many residents opposed the sale of the church to Muslims, and a controversy exploded within the city council and throughout the 16,000-resident community.

Koldenhoven spoke out in defense of religious freedom and tolerance, supporting the sale of the vacant church. City council members, however, proposed that the city buy the building in question and pay a $200,000 buy-out to the Foundation to get them to abandon their plan. Mayor Koldenhoven vetoed the payoff, calling it an embarrassment and an insult to the Muslim community.

The mayor’s veto blocked the council from purchasing the church property, but ultimately the Mosque Foundation decided against moving to Palos Heights. In the next election a fierce public backlash from voters who blamed the mayor for bringing unwanted attention to the town resulted in Koldenhoven losing his bid for re-election.

Koldenhoven’s appearance at Dordt is part of the First Mondays Speaker Series, which is designed to enrich the academic experience and create an engaging learning experience for the campus community. The speaker series is bringing to Dordt’s campus thinkers, writers, and opinion-leaders who are actively engaging the world from a biblical perspective. Listeners are being challenged to expand discussions, grow in understanding, and act boldly and creatively in serving God.

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