The Westar Institute Advocate for Public Religious Literacy (APRL) award confers recognition to an individual who:

  • Demonstrates commitment to public religious literacy through outstanding and measurable contributions to his or her community
  • Translates religion scholarship into forms that are accessible and engaging for public audiences such as schools, churches, libraries, and community groups
  • May concentrate on one particular religion (e.g. Christianity, Islam) or religion-related social issue (e.g. abortion, marriage rights), or on religious literacy broadly speaking
  • May belong to a particular faith tradition, or none, but whose contributions reflect a spirit of openness and dialogue with those who hold different views
  • Is a member of the public who does not currently hold an academic appointment at an institution of higher learning in religious studies, biblical studies, or related fields

Westar Institute — home of the Jesus Seminar — believes that members of the public contribute vital innovation and leadership to the issue of improving public literacy in matters of religion, in partnership with religion scholars. While opportunities exist to acknowledge the contributions of scholars,* currently no major national award exists specifically to celebrate the grassroots efforts of community members such as social activists, librarians, school teachers, politicians, and religious leaders who take concrete action to improve religious literacy in their communities.

The Advocate for Public Religious Literacy award was established in March 2015 in celebration of Westar Institute’s 30th anniversary. Since its inception Westar has been dedicated to advancing religious literacy generally and biblical literacy specifically. The award program seeks to acknowledge and reward individuals taking exemplary action to address the gap between scholarship and public discourse about religion. It is hoped that the award program will both raise the level of awareness about such efforts and encourage new initiatives.

The recipient of the inaugural award will receive free registration, travel, and lodging for the Spring 2016 national meeting in Santa Rosa, California, to be honored at the closing banquet.

Nomination Period

After the inaugural award, nominations will be accepted on a rolling basis. To be considered for the inaugural award, submit your nomination by Friday, January 15, 2016.

See the Eligibility Requirements for this award.

Get Tips and Examples of qualifying activities for the award and ways you can improve religious literacy in your community.

For details on how to nominate an individual for this award, please visit the Award Nomination Page. A modest entry fee ($10) helps to cover costs of administrating the awards.

For questions and concerns related to the award, please contact us.

Award applicants grant Westar Institute authorization to use application content, award acceptance speeches, recordings, photos and all other material arising from the award application and acceptance process.


*Faculty in religious studies and related fields are currently recognized by existing awards both for specific religions and more broadly, e.g., Westar Institute’s Order of David Friedrich Strauss and the American Academy of Religion’s Martin E. Marty Award for Public Understanding of Religion.