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Albright College Assistant Professor Awarded Year-Long Fellowship to Research Religion and Contraception in American Life

June 20, 2016

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Samira Mehta, Ph.D.

Reading, Pa. – Samira Mehta, Ph.D., an assistant professor of religious studies at Albright College, has been awarded a prestigious year-long fellowship at the Library of Congress to research contraception and American religion.

Mehta has received the David B. Larson Fellowship in Health and Spirituality at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. She will spend the 2016-17 academic year away from Albright to research a project she is tentatively calling “God Bless the Pill? Contraception, Sexuality and American Religion.”

An expert in American religion and family life, Mehta will explore how different faith groups responded to and continue to address contraception, from the development and approval of the birth control pill in the 1960s, to more recent court cases like Hobby Lobby.

“I’m looking most intently at mainline Protestants and the impact they have on the laws and public debate about contraception,” said Mehta. “How does the language of morality feature?”

Many Protestant leaders in the 1950s and 60s, for instance, supported contraception as a means of family planning, population control and resource conversation. “When does birth control become a feminist issue? How do we get to Hobby Lobby? How does the conversation shift?” asks Mehta.

In 2012, Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain store owned by an Evangelical Christian family, challenged the contraceptive mandate in the federal Affordable Care Act. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 margin that corporations such as Hobby Lobby are not required to provide their female employees with contraceptive health care coverage if the company’s owners object on religious grounds.

The David B. Larson Fellowship promotes research on the relation of religiousness and spirituality to physical, mental and social health. Fellows have concentrated access to the Library of Congress’ collections through full-time residency in the Library’s John W. Kluge Center for six to 12 months.

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Founded in 1856, Albright College is a selective, national liberal arts college enrolling 1,700 full-time undergraduates and more than 800 adult learners and graduate students. The College’s flexible interdisciplinary curriculum, strengthened by a close-knit residential learning environment, encourages students to combine majors and disciplines to create individualized academic programs. Close faculty mentorship, numerous experiential learning options, and a diverse, supportive community of scholars and learners help students exceed their own expectations and graduate with a commitment to a lifetime of service and learning. Albright College is located in Reading, Pennsylvania.