Whistleblowers John Dean, Weston Smith and lawyer Ken Starr highlight Christian Scholars' Conference 2013

By Janel Shoun-Smith on 6/10/2013

   
   

John Dean, former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon and one of the major players in the historic Watergate scandal, was one of three preeminent speakers at the 33rd annual Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference hosted by Lipscomb University on June 6-8.

The conference gathered more than 500 theologians and faith leaders from almost 100 different universities engaged in 92 paper, panel or performance sessions exploring the theme “Crisis in Ethics: theology, business, law and the liberal and fine arts.”

Four conference events, including the Saturday talk by John Dean, were free and open to the general public. Additional highlighted speakers included Charles Mathewes, author of Theology of Public Life and Understanding Religious Ethics, and David Miller, founding director of Princeton’s Faith and Work Initiative and former director of the Ethics and Spirituality in the Workplace Program of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture.

 

Scroll down or click the links below to read more about highlights of each day of the annual conference.

Charles Matthewes: "The Future of Political Theology"
Ken Starr: "Ethics and the Law"
Weston Smith: "Felon and Prosecutor: Anatomy of a White Collar Crime"
As Goes Janesville: So goes the nation
University presidents: "After Penn State"
John Dean, "The Ethical Legacy of Watergate"

To see more photos from the 2013 conference or to get more information log on to www.lipscomb.edu/csc.

 

 

DAY ONE

Charles Mathewes, Ken Starr highlight first day

The 33rd annual Thomas H. Olbricht Christian Scholars’ Conference began its 2013 program on Thursday with an impressive line-up of faith and thought leaders.

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Theologian Charles Mathewes spoke at the inaugural plenary session on Thursday.
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The Ethics and Law session on Thursday afternoon.
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Kenneth Starr, president of Baylor University, along with other panelists.
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Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry along with other panelists.

Not only did Charles Mathewes, theologian and author from the University of Virginia, kick off the plenary addresses with some insightful comments on “The Future of Political Theology,” but 28 paper and panel sessions featuring scholars from Baylor, Duke, Vanderbilt, Abilene Christian, Auburn, Pepperdine, Emory, Florida State and Yale universities engaged the more than 500 scholars and faith leaders attending this year’s conference.

This year’s theme is “Crisis in Ethics: theology, business, law and the liberal and fine arts.”

Among the highlights of the Thursday activities was the “Ethics and the Law” session, featuring:

  • Baylor University President and former independent counsel for President Bill Clinton Kenneth Starr;
  • Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Boyd;
  • Pepperdine University School of Law, Dean Emeritus Ron Phillips;
  • Nationally known Texas Attorney Mark Lanier; and
  • Lipscomb’s own President L. Randolph Lowry.

The Christian Scholars’ Conference includes three additional free events and one additional tickets event that are open to the general public.

  • Tom Brewer, former GM executive and current president of the Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association, and Micheal Herron, chairman of the United Auto Workers Local 1853, Spring Hill, will be part of a panel discussion on the issues of corporate social responsibility raised in the documentary film As Goes Janesville, at 2:15 p.m. today in the Ezell Center, Room 234.
  • David Miller, founding director of Princeton’s Faith and Work Initiative and former director of the Ethics and Spirituality in the Workplace Program of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, will speak on “God at Work” today at 4:15 p.m. in Acuff Chapel.
  • John Dean, former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon and one of the major players in the historic Watergate scandal, will speak on “The Ethical Legacy of Watergate,” Saturday at 10:45 a.m. in Collins Alumni Auditorium.
  • The Blackbird Theater, Lipscomb's theater-troupe-in-residence, presents Oleanna, by David Mamet, on this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and this Sunday, at 2:30 p.m. in Shamblin Theatre. Click here to go to the online ticket purchase site.

For a full schedule of the conference activities go to csc.lipscomb.edu.

 

DAY TWO

HealthSouth whistleblower Weston Smith highlights business ethics focus at CSC

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(l to r) Lipscomb College of Business Dean Turney Stevens, former HealthSouth CFO Weston Smith, and former U.S. Attorney General of Middle Tennessee Ed Yarbrough.

A focus on business ethics was the theme of day two of the Christian Scholars’ Conference, as national leaders in the field made presentations in many of 48 paper and panel sessions.

Weston Smith, former CFO of HealthSouth in Birmingham, Ala., and known as the the whistleblower on Richard Scrushy’s billion-dollar fraud, spoke to a luncheon audience along with Ed Yarbrough, former U.S. Attorney General for Middle Tennessee.

The luncheon talk titled, “Felon and Prosecutor: Anatomy of a White Collar Crime,” was sponsored by Lipscomb’s Dean Institute for Corporate Governance and Integrity.

“The culture there was one of win at any cost,” said Smith, describing HealthSouth. He told a story about former CEO Scrushy hiring former professional football players to play on the company softball team just so the team wouldn’t lose so often.

“If there is a fear to tell the CEO the truth, that is when it goes over the line,” he said.

Yarbrough noted that he believes there is much more white collar fraud in the Nashville and Middle Tennessee area than the public realizes. He blames the lack of media coverage as one reason the public is in the dark about the fraud around them.

Smith, who is a Christian and grew up in a church culture, said his dilemma made him realize just how shallow his belief system was. Today when he speaks to youth, he encourages them to ask “What is the foundation in your life that will keep you from slipping and making the mistakes I did,” he said.

 

As Goes Janesville director discusses corporate social responsibility

In an afternoon session, documentary film director Brad Lichtenstein moderated a discussion of the role of morality in business success before an audience who saw his film As Goes Janesville on Wednesday night. The film depicts the human cost of economic change in Janesville, Wis., after the shutting down of the town’s century-old GM plant.

The discussion session included Tom Brewer, former GM executive and current president of the Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association, and Michael Herron, chairman, United Auto Workers Local 1853, Spring Hill.

Brewer, who has closed two plants during his career and was involved in the process to idle the Spring Hill, Tenn., plant, noted that automotive plant closures affect more than blue collar workers. As a GM executive, he also had to decide whether to retire, transfer to a new plant or find a new job with another company. “It’s devastating,” he said.

At one point Herron and other panelists noted the negative effects of the polarization of society, which is squeezing the  middle class economically, they said. “If people want to create jobs in the U.S., the people need to demand that producers manufacture their products in the U.S.,” he said.

 

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University presidents speak out on what they have learned from Penn State University

Another afternoon session featuring the presidents of Harding University, Lubbock Christian University, Lipscomb University and the president emeritus of Abilene Christian University in a discussion of "After Penn State: What did we learn, What have we changed, How now shall we lead?"

"As college presidents, there are so many aspects of an institution of higher learning that we have to be aware of," said L. Randolph Lowry, Lipscomb president. "There are the legal, ethical, practical, academic, public relations asepcts ... college presidents have to walk all of these aspects of a university at the same time. There is also a shepherding aspect of your employees and an obligation that goes well beyond merely employing them. Character has to be pervasive throughout the institution. If there is a problem with character within your employee base, it's a reflection on your character as a president. Same goes for our coaches and the student athletes they recruit."

Lowry said that he believes coaches need to take the same approach to running an athletic team as a dean or department head runs their program. He has challenged Lipscomb coaches to develop strategic plans for their programs that focus on recruiting, academic success, character developing, playing strategy, spiritual formation and community engagement.

Friday was capped off in the afternoon by a plenary session featuring David Miller, founding director of Princeton University’s Faith & Work Initiative, speaking on “God at Work.”

The Christian Scholars’ Conference includes one additional free event and one additional ticketed event that are open to the general public.

  • John Dean, former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon and one of the major players in the historic Watergate scandal, will speak on “The Ethical Legacy of Watergate,” Saturday at 10:45 a.m. in Collins Alumni Auditorium.
  • The Blackbird Theater, Lipscomb's theater-troupe-in-residence, presents Oleanna, by David Mamet, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and this Sunday, at 2:30 p.m. in Shamblin Theatre. Click here to go to the online ticket purchase site.

For a full schedule of the conference activities go to csc.lipscomb.edu.

 

DAY THREE

Key Watergate player speaks on ethical legacy of Watergate scandal

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The Christian Scholars’ Conference at Lipscomb University wrapped up Saturday, June 8, with a talk by a man who faced one of the most famous ethical dilemmas in history.

John Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon and key witness for the prosecution in the Watergate trials, spoke to conference participants on “The Ethical Legacy of Watergate.” Unfortunately, the legacy of America’s most famous presidential scandal is not a particularly strong one, he noted.

“With Watergate, we wrote the book on what not to do, but nobody is checking the book anymore,” Dean told the crowd of theologians and scholars attending the three-day annual conference. This year’s theme was “Crisis in Ethics: theology, business, law and the liberal and fine arts.”

“Watergate reforms have come and gone,” Dean said, noting that a law requiring an independent counsel to investigate presidential wrong-doing has been eliminated, that campaign finance laws passed in the wake of Watergate have been gutted and that investigative journalism of the kind that brought the 1970s abuses to light has faded away.

The only positive ethical legacy Dean noted was that the scandal motivated the American Bar Association to revamp its ethics rules for lawyers.

Dean was in his 30s when he went to work for the White House and became embroiled in the cover-up of illegal activities brought to the public eye through a break-in at the Watergate hotel/office complex. As more information came to light and Dean saw just how far his colleagues were willing to go to hide their activities, he decided to work with prosecutors and the Senate committee to reveal the truth.

Dean told the crowd that he was convinced that “nobody at the White House had a clue we were doing anything illegal until after Nov. 7, 1972. We were in the psychology of cover-up,” he said.

“Such crimes are not bright-line crimes. It’s very easy to slip over the line. There’s no flashing light to let you know you have gone too far,” he said.

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During his televised testimony before the Senate committee, Dean presented a list of those in the White House who were involved. He had marked each lawyer on the list with a star because he was shocked how many lawyers had been part of the conspiracy. That list inspired leaders of the ABA to re-work their ethics rules for lawyers, and today, Dean speaks to lawyers nationwide about the new ethics rules and demonstrate how the rules would have stopped the illegal activities and cover-up in the Nixon White House.

The new ethics rules provide lawyers with more “leverage to force their clients to do the right thing,” he said. This area of modern legal ethics is the primary place where the legacy of Watergate is making a difference today, Dean said.

Next year’s Christian Scholars’ Conference will begin on June 5, 2014, and will feature Carl Holladay, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of New Testament Studies at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, as one of the highlighted speakers.

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