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Featured Story: Wagner Faith & Freedom Center

William Wagner speaking at the dedication of the Wagner Faith & Freedom Center.

When Professor William Wagner and Spring Arbor University’s President Brent Ellis first met, they discovered a shared passion for protecting freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This meeting ignited the desire to create an academic center promoting these freedoms. 

Fast forward to fall of 2022. With the help of some generous donors, Wagner and President Ellis saw the dedication of the Wagner Faith & Freedom Center on Spring Arbor University’s campus. Their idea to help college students and Christian people around the world defend their faith and strengthen their ability to express their religious ideas, despite ideological differences, is now a tangible reality.

“Our goal is to equip that next generation—to engage our culture with the love of Christ, to be fiercely unafraid to speak his truth and to answer the hard questions, but to always do it with compassion and respect,” said Wagner when speaking on the goals of the Center.

Wagner holds the academic rank of Distinguished Professor (emeritus) after an academic career teaching constitutional law and ethics. His public service includes serving with distinction in all three branches of the federal government, including as a federal judge in the U.S. Courts, legal counsel in the U.S. Senate, senior assistant U.S. Attorney in the Department of Justice, and as an American diplomat and senior advisor for global criminal justice at the U.S. Department of State. This combination of academic and public service gives him a unique insight into the treatment of Christian people and other individuals with religious beliefs in the public sphere.

Regarding his public service, Wagner said, “You begin to see how it’s possible that the government can use its power in good ways, but you can also see how they can use it in very dangerous ways. And one of the dangerous ways I observed was that, not just in the United States but throughout the world, government increasingly uses its power in ways that substantially interfere with a person’s freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion.”

This injustice encouraged Wagner to create a space for Christians where they can learn to articulate religious thought and engage in conversation, even where deep ideological differences exist—a crucial part of the mission of the Wagner Faith & Freedom Center.

“The mission of the Faith & Freedom Center seeks to ensure peace, good governance, stability, prosperity, charity, truth, and justice,” explained Wagner. “We seek to cultivate civility despite deep ideological and religious differences; to create a global public square where the free exercise of religion engages the marketplace of ideas free from coercive interference from government.”

Having the Center at Spring Arbor University provides an additional avenue for students to enhance their faith and engage in insightful discussions with spiritual leaders, teaching them to confidently share and respectfully defend their beliefs with others.

Wagner noted some of the opportunities for students at the Center: “Our Faith & Freedom Fellowship includes a discipleship component where we work one-on-one with the student, teaching a biblical worldview and building character – while providing one of the best internship experiences in the country.”

The Wagner Faith & Freedom Center will help further the goal of Spring Arbor University and its students to develop as critical participants in the contemporary world, as President Ellis expressed at the dedication of the Center.

“Considering the impact the Wagner Faith & Freedom Center could have over the coming years in multiplying and expanding the phenomenal work of Spring Arbor University excites and motivates me tremendously,” said President Ellis. “We’ve worked diligently over the past several years to advocate for our ability to remain an unapologetically Christian university, and to now host a Center whose purpose is to champion freedom of religion, conscience, and thought is truly remarkable.”

View the full interview with William Wagner here or learn more about the Wagner Faith & Freedom Center by visiting