Dr. Stanley Carlson-Thies

Founder and Senior Director, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance
Stanley Carlson-Thies

Stanley Carlson-Thies is founder and senior director of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, a Washington, DC-area nonpartisan group that works to safeguard the religious identity and faith-shaped operations of faith-based service organizations. IRFA since August 2014 is a division of the Center for Public Justice.

Carlson-Thies is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow of the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, and a co-chairperson of the Common Ground for the Common Good Program directed by Dr. John DiIulio.  Until the end of 2008 Carlson-Thies was Director of Faith-Based Policy Studies at the Center for Public Justice, where he remains a Senior Fellow. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Canadian think tank Cardus. He is the convener of the Coalition to Preserve Religious Freedom, a multi-faith alliance of social-service, education, and religious freedom organizations that advocates for the religious freedom of faith-based organizations to Congress and the federal government. He has consulted with federal departments and several states.

Carlson-Thies served with the White House Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives from its inception in February, 2001, until mid-May, 2002. He assisted with writing “Unlevel Playing Field: Barriers to Participation by Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Federal Social Service Programs” (August, 2001), and “Rallying the Armies of Compassion,” the initial blueprint for President George W. Bush’s faith and community agenda. Carlson-Thies was Director of Social Policy Studies for the Center for Public Justice before joining the White House, and directed the Center’s project to track the implementation and impact of the Charitable Choice provision of the 1996 federal welfare reform law. In 2009-2010 he served on a task force of the President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith- Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, helping to draft recommendations on how to clarify the church-state rules that apply to federal funding of social-service providers.

Carlson-Thies’s publications and speeches include Free to Serve:  Protecting the Religious Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations, co-authored by Stephen Monsma (BrazosPress, 2015); the 2013 Kuyper Lecture for the Center for Public Justice; “Beyond Right of Conscience to Freedom to Live Faithfully,” Regent University Law Review (2011-12); “Which Religious Organizations Count as Religious? The Religious Employer Exemption of the Health Insurance Law’s Contraceptives Mandate,” Engage (July 2012); “Faith-Based Initiative 2.0: The Bush Faith-Based and Community Initiative,” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy (Summer 2009); “The Faith-Based Initiative: Both Cause of Contention and the Solution to an Impasse?” Journal of Ecumenical Studies (Winter 2009); “Why Should Washington, DC, Listen to Rome and Geneva About Public Policy for Civil Society?” in J. H. Schindler, ed., Christianity and Civil Society (Lexington Books, 2008); The Freedom of Faith-Based Organizations to Staff on a Religious Basis, with C. Esbeck and R. Sider (Center for Public Justice, 2004); Revolution of Compassion: Faith-Based Groups as Full Partners in Fighting America’s Social Problems, with D. Donaldson (Baker Books, 2003); “Charitable Choice: Bringing Religion Back into American Welfare,” in H. Heclo and W. McClay, eds., Religion Returns to the Public Square: Faith and Policy in America (2003). He also wrote Charitable Choice for Welfare & Community Services: An Implementation Guide for State, Local, and Federal Officials (Center for Public Justice, 2000), compiled A Guide to Charitable Choice: The Rules of Section 104 of the 1996 Federal Welfare Law Governing State Cooperation with Faith-based Social-Service Providers (a co-publication of the Center for Public Justice and the Center for Law and Religious Freedom of the Christian Legal Society, 1997), and co-edited Welfare in America: Christian Perspectives on a Policy in Crisis (1996).

Carlson-Thies received the William Bentley Ball Life and Religious Liberty Defense Award from the Center for Law and Religious Freedom and the Christian Legal Society in October, 2004. He was named as one of twelve advocates who are “reinterpreting God and country” by the National Journal in May, 2004. He holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Toronto. His dissertation is on the role of Protestants and Catholics in the development of Dutch politics in the 19th and 20th centuries. Besides the United States, he has lived in Canada, the Netherlands, and Japan, where he was born of missionary parents.

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