In this day and age, religion is often a hot-button issue. In an effort to bring greater understanding of the many different religions in the world, the First Congregational Church of Darien will host a panel discussion addressing the issue.

John Bassler, who was instrumental in establishing a recent discussion on civility in society, is teaming up with Kate Clarke to assemble a panel of religious experts who will discuss the role of religion in society and how the different faiths are connected to each other.

"The most critical component of this event is the fact that the church is offering this. The church has a long history of acceptance," Clarke said. "As a congregation we are willing to take the tough stance."

One of the objectives is to educate and inform the community and to help reduce religious ignorance, Bassler said. He hopes people will have more respect for other people's beliefs after attending the event.

"The common thread in all religions is the golden rule," Bassler said. He referred to the Christian belief which says people should treat others the way they would want to be treated. Many other religions like Hinduism, Islam and Judaism use a variation of that belief.

"We can take steps to understand what other people believe and work towards that understanding," Clarke said.

From a historical standpoint, religion has long been a contentious and violent issue. However, Bassler said religion should not be such a source of division. By expanding people's knowledge base about the different religions, he said he hopes there will be greater acceptance as a result.

The idea to host an interfaith panel came after the civility panel, when a number of people approached Clarke and Bassler and said a broader topic issue like religion would appeal to more people.

"People wanted something a little broader and something that was a little more global," Clarke said.

The panel of experts includes Rev. Don Longbottom; Father Richard Cipolla; Curate at St. Mary's Church and chairman of the classics department at Brunswick School in Greenwich; Assistant Rabbi Brian Leiken of the Temple Shalom in Norwalk; Imam Kareem Adeeb of the American Institute for Islamic & Arabic Studies in Stamford; and Suresh Shenoy, lecturer/author on Hindu thought.

In a similar fashion to the panel on civility, Bassler and Clarke said each panelist would give background information on their religion before discussing a few broader questions. The discussion would also be opened up to a town hall style format.

The discussion is scheduled for May 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the First Congregational Church in Darien.