For Immediate Release
May 22, 2015

Media Contact: Jacob Hess
Village Square, Salt Lake City
Phone: 801.712.1346

Inaugural Dinner Event, June 18th – focused on LGBT/Religious Dialogue

(SALT LAKE CITY, UT) – May 22, 2015 – Utah has recently been recognized nationally for an historic deliberation between political leaders associated with the LGBT and religious communities. Since then, some have wondered: how can the larger spirit of that event be multiplied to involve more Utah citizens in the same kind of generous, open-hearted conversations?

We are excited to announce the creation of a Salt Lake City chapter of The Village Square – a nationally known nonpartisan 501(c) 3 public educational forum dedicated to raising the quality of civic discussion on issues of local, state and national importance.

Since 2006, the Village Square has been innovating unique methods to create a “Town Hall for the 21st Century” – helping communities move beyond the polarized bickering and diatribes that often characterize these events. Senator Olympia Snow called the Village Square one of 8 national organizations to support if you’re concerned about healing the partisan divide. Village Square advisor Jonathan Haidt, professor at New York University, says the Village Square “helps open hearts, then minds by fostering the mutual recognition of everyone’s decency and sincerity.”

On Thursday, June 18th, Village Square Salt Lake City will host our inaugural event, “Reaching Across America’s Deepest Divide: Former Adversaries Tell Their Story of Coming Together to Explore Sexual Orientation-Faith Conflicts.” This dinner event, open to the public, will be held at the Salt Lake Acting Company (168 W, 500 N) – with dinner starting at 6:30 and the program beginning at 7:15. The program will be co-moderated by Jacob Hess, Director of Village Square SLC, and Jay Jacobsen, Director of Circling the Wagons.

Co-sponsored by Living Room Conversations and the Salt Lake Civil Network, this event will offer a chance to participants to ‘listen in’ to the story of members of the Reconciliation and Growth Project – a collaborative effort to deepen understanding across the LGBT/religious divide, including: Jerry Buie (Pride Counseling), Lee Beckstead & Jim Struve (The LGBTQ-Affirmative Psychotherapist Guild of Utah), Shirley Cox (Brigham Young University instructor), David Matheson (Journey into Manhood), David Pruden (Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity) and Marybeth Raynes (Crossroads Psychotherapy).

Unlike an information-based “panel discussion,” this event will prioritize relationship building and FUN – with cabaret-style tables and dessert served to punctuate the conversation. Unique mobile-phone-based methods will be used to solicit questions and prompt interaction throughout, with two civility bells held by left and right-leaning audience members.

Future events being planned in Salt Lake City include “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” and similar dinner forums exploring potential common ground on policing, climate change & religious freedom. A “Sticky Issues in Civil Society” lunch series will also begin this summer, featuring topics such as “What to Do When We Disagree on the ‘Facts’?” and “Are there Some Issues it is NOT Okay to Disagree About?” In all Village Square events, the aim will be to focus on issues of importance to Utahans about which misunderstandings exist and questions that may perhaps uniquely benefit from a creative, trans-partisan exploration.

In a time when increasing political animosities continue to be documented nationally, it is time for communities to take more proactive measures to nurture and bolster our collective capacity for productive disagreement. Like the preservation of our precious natural and environmental resources in the state, we believe this civic space in our communities also deserves careful protection – indeed, as a national heritage dating back to the colonial “village square” where a diverse people came together to explore the future of this country.

For more information or to reserve your seat, go to With limited seating, some spots are being held for journalists. With questions, contact Jacob Hess or Liz Joyner at the numbers above (between May 27 and June 5, please contact Liz).