Tenth Anniversary Celebration This Month

Here’s a short piece on the Center’s 10th anniversary celebration at the Metropolitan Club earlier this month, which included a judges panel on law-and-religion cases at the Supreme Court and a dinner at which Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. offered remarks on the Center’s first decade. Thanks to our board members, alumni, friends and supporters!

Breen and Strang Reply to Interlocutors on Catholic legal education

In 2020, the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies and the Center for Law and Religion co-hosted a symposium on a draft book by Professors John Breen and Lee Strang: “A Light Unseen: A History of Catholic Legal Education.” Deans of several Catholic law schools, as well as other learned academics, offered comments on the manuscript. Those comments were published by JCLS last year.

Professors Breen and Strang have now offered this thorough and very interesting reply, in the new issue of JCLS. Their remarks are well worth your time.

Video of Webinar on Cultural Heritage in Law & Diplomacy

Last month, the Center co-sponsored a webinar on cultural heritage in law and diplomacy, along with the Fletcher Initiative at Tufts and the Armenian Studies Program at California State University-Fresno. Among other things, the participants discussed the capacity of international law to offer protection for minority cultural property during armed conflicts, including the current conflict in Nagorno Karabakh. A video of the webinar is now available at the link below. Posts from the participants were made available earlier on this site. Thanks again to our colleagues at Tufts and Cal-State and all the participants!

The Center’s 1oth Anniversary Video

Mark and I hope you enjoy this new video, which we put together for the Center’s 10th anniversary (plus one!). It describes the people, activities, projects, and opportunities that make the Center what it is. Here’s to another 10 (plus more)!

Video of Webinar on Religious Exemptions

The SNF Agora Institute at The Johns Hopkins University has posted a video of the webinar I participated in this week, on religious freedom in the US. The panel was moderated by The Atlantic’s Rachel Donadio; other participants included K. Healon Gaston (Harvard), Daniel Mach (ACLU) and Asma Uddin (Independent). I greatly enjoyed the panel and am grateful to the organizers for inviting me. Video below:

Webinar on Religious Liberty in France and the US

I’m looking forward to participating this afternoon in a panel on religious liberty issues in the U.S., part of a webinar on Secularism in France and the United States organized by the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University. Our very first Center event eleven years ago was a conference on laicite at our Paris campus and I’m looking forward to revisiting these issues. Details at the link: https://snfagora.jhu.edu/event/secularism-and-its-discontents/.

Law and Religion in “The Merchant of Venice”

Marc and I had a great time leading the Center’s Reading Society last night in a discussion of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” Along with the play, we discussed Allan Bloom’s great essay, “On Christian and Jew,” which reads the play as a reflection on the limits of law and commerce in holding together a community. We’ll be recording a Legal Spirits episode on all this soon, so stay tuned. Great comments from our students!

Interviewed in the Deseret News

Religion journalist Kelsey Dallas, a past guest on Legal Spirits, interviews me in the Deseret News about my forthcoming essay in the Journal of Law and Religion on courts’ responses to Covid restrictions on public worship. Here’s a sample:

The COVID-19 pandemic has created all sorts of religious freedom conflict, as people of faith fight gathering restrictions, mask requirements and, more recently, vaccine mandates.

Your view on these legal battles likely depends on your professional, spiritual and political interests. Mark L. Movsesian, co-director of the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University in New York, saw them as opportunities to study the limits of the United States’ approach to religious liberty protections. . . .

When there are no easy, obvious answers, judicial bias can creep in. That’s always problematic, but it’s especially so at a time when liberal and conservative judges often have very different views on the value of faith and what should win out when religious freedom is in conflict with other rights.

“As long as we don’t have a common baseline for how important religion is compared to other things, we’re going to have inconsistent opinions” from the legal system, Movsesian said. And with inconsistent opinions comes political and social strife.

You can read the whole interview here.

Today’s Panel on Cultural Heritage

I enjoyed participating in today’s webinar on cultural heritage in law and diplomacy, with fellow panelists Narine Ghazaryan (Nottingham), Leonard Hammer (Arizona), Evangelos Kyriakidis (Heritage Management), Sergio La Porta (Fresno State), Peter Petkoff (Oxford), Elizabeth Prodromou (Fletcher School) and Michalyn Steele (BYU). The Fletcher School at Tufts, Oxford, and Fresno State co-sponsored the event, along with our own Center. Fletcher will eventually make the video available on its site.

Law, Religion, and the Covid Crisis

I have a new draft on SSRN, “Law, Religion, and the Covid Crisis,” comparing how courts across the globe have approached restrictions on public worship and exploring what the cases reveal about social divisions, especially in the United States. Here’s the abstract:

This essay explores judicial responses to legal restrictions on worship during the COVID pandemic and draws two lessons, one comparative and one relating specifically to US law. As a comparative matter, courts across the globe have approached the problem in essentially the same way, through intuition and balancing. This has been the case regardless of what formal test applies, the proportionality test outside the US, which expressly calls for judges to weigh the relative costs and benefits of a restriction, or the Employment Division v. Smith test inside the US, which rejects judicial line-drawing and balancing in favor of predictable results. Judges have reached different conclusions about the legality of restrictions, of course, but doctrinal nuances have made little apparent difference. With respect to the US, specifically, the pandemic has revealed deep divisions about religion and religious freedom, among other things—divisions that have inevitably influenced judicial attitudes toward restrictions on worship. The COVID crisis has revealed a cultural and political rift that makes consensual resolution of conflicts over religious freedom problematic, and perhaps impossible, even during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

The essay will appear in the forthcoming volume of the Journal of Law and Religion. Comments welcome!