Mark ChanceyMark Chancey, associate professor and chair of religious studies in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has received the 2008 Samantha Smoot Activist Award from the Texas Freedom Network (TFN). Chancey will receive the award at a ceremony in Austin Oct. 4.

TFN presents the award each year to “an individual or individuals who exemplify our mission and work to change the political landscape through grassroots advocacy.”

An expert on archaeology and the Bible, as well as the political and social history of Palestine during the Roman period, Chancey also researches current issues surrounding religion in public education. In collaboration with the TFN Education Fund, he wrote two groundbreaking reports about public school Bible courses, revealing numerous problems that posed potential threats to religious freedom in public schools. The reports spurred national debate about the difficulties of teaching Bible courses in a neutral and nondevotional manner.

“[Chancey’s] research and personal testimony at the Texas Legislature and State Board of Education influenced education policy in tangible and positive ways,” TFN states in its award citation. “Texas public school students would almost certainly be exposed to more and more deeply flawed and unconstitutional Bible courses in their schools if not for Dr. Chancey’s tireless advocacy.”