“Rethinking Open Society” (Ignatieff & Roch, eds.)

Here is a very interesting collection of essays, one of which is a discussion between liberal public intellectuals Michael Ignatieff and Mark Lilla about the prospects for and substantial challenges to the idea of the “open society”–in the US and around the world. That exchange was so interesting that I chose it as one of the essays we will discuss at our upcoming Tradition Project conference in Rome this December, at a workshop on “Nationalism, Populism, and Traditionalism.”

The book (which contains contributions from the likes of Thomas Christiano, Stephen Open SocietyWalt, and Roger Scruton) is Rethinking Open Society: New Adversaries and New Opportunities (Central European University Press).

The key values of the Open Society – freedom, justice, tolerance, democracy and respect for knowledge – are increasingly under threat in today’s world. As an effort to uphold those values, this volume brings together some of the key political, social and economic thinkers of our time to re-examine the Open Society closely in terms of its history, its achievements and failures, and its future prospects. Based on the lecture series Rethinking Open Society, which took place between 2017 and 2018 at the Central European University, the volume is deeply embedded in the history and purpose of CEU, its Open Society mission, and its belief in educating sceptical but passionate citizens.

Wilken, “Liberty in the Things of God”

It’s perhaps somewhat early to notice this new and important book, scheduled for summer of 2019, but it deserves at least two book notes from us. We were lucky enough to host Professor Robert Louis Wilken at the Center for Law and Religion’s Colloquium a few weeks ago to discuss several draft chapters of this new book, a deep study of the Christian Patristic period for early arguments concerning religious liberty. Arguments which, Professor Wilken writes, can be connected to several others of the Protestant Reformation many centuries later and are the true foundation for our American conception of religious freedom.

Congratulations to Robert on this major achievement. The book is Liberty in the Things of God: The Christian Origins of Religious Freedom (Yale University Press). Look out for it Wilken.jpgnext year.

In the ancient world Christian apologists wrote in defense of their right to practice their faith in the cities of the Roman Empire. They argued that religious faith is an inward disposition of the mind and heart and cannot be coerced by external force, laying a foundation on which later generations would build.

Chronicling the history of the struggle for religious freedom from the early Christian movement through the seventeenth century, Robert Louis Wilken shows that the origins of religious freedom and liberty of conscience are religious, not political, in origin. They took form before the Enlightenment through the labors of men and women of faith who believed there could be no justice in society without liberty in the things of God. This provocative book, drawing on writings from the early Church as well as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, reminds us of how “the meditations of the past were fitted to affairs of a later day.”

Center for Law and Religion at Notre Dame this Week

Mark and I will both be in South Bend this week, at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture’s annual conference. This year’s conference, organized by Carter Snead with his usual flair and skill, is Higher Powers. The theme picks up on a remark by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in a memorable address at Harvard 25 years ago, and the conference takes the occasion to reflect on Solzhenitsyn’s life and thought.

Mark will be speaking about “Church and State in a Time of Polarization,” while I will be speaking about “The Higher Purposes of Free Speech.” The full schedule for the conference is here. We hope to see many of our readers and friends!

Micah Schwartzman at the Colloquium in Law and Religion Today

We are delighted to welcome Professor Micah Schwartzman to the Colloquium in Law Micah.jpegand Religion today.

Micah will be discussing his co-authored piece with Professor Leslie Kendrick about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, The Etiquette of Animus, forthcoming in the Harvard Law Review. Welcome, Micah!

John Inazu at the Colloquium in Law and Religion Today

We are delighted to welcome Professor John Inazu to the Colloquium in Law and Inazu.jpegReligion today.

John will be discussing the newly released edition of his recent book, Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference. Welcome, John!

Congratulations to Board Member Richard Sullivan


Judge Richard Sullivan

Congratulations to Center Board Member Judge Richard Sullivan! Yesterday, the Senate confirmed Rich to a seat on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. For people keeping track, Rich is the second participant in our Center’s Tradition Project to be named to the federal appeals court. The other is Stephanos Bibas, now on the Third Circuit. We like to think our record speaks for itself.

Philip Hamburger at the Colloquium in Law and Religion today

We are delighted to welcome Professor Philip Hamburger to our Colloquium in Law and HamburgerReligion today.

Philip will be discussing several chapters of his most recent book, Liberal Suppression: Section 501(c)(3) and the Taxation of Speech (U. Chicago Press 2018).

Loyola University Maryland on Thursday

I’m very pleased to give a slightly belated Constitution Day lecture at Loyola University Maryland’s political science department this coming Thursday, at the kind invitation of Dr. Jesse Merriam. I’ll be speaking about the trajectory of some of the Court’s more recent First Amendment cases involving the freedom of speech and religious freedom.

The King’s College Tomorrow With Professor David Tubbs

I’m very pleased to be at The King’s College tomorrow in Manhattan, where I’ll be giving a response to Professor David Tubbs’s Constitution Day Lecture: “The Burdens of Constitutional Memory: Slavery, Segregation, and the Supreme Court.” The event is free though RSVP is requested. Hope to see any of the Center’s local readers and followers there!

Law and Religion Colloquium Hosts Robert Louis Wilken


Thanks so much to Professor Robert Louis Wilken (University of Virginia, Emeritus) for joining our colloquium this week to presenting chapters from his forthcoming book on the Christian origins of religious freedom. Professor Wilken is one of the foremost historians of Christianity and it was a great privilege to have him with us. Come again soon, Robert!

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