A Conference on Robert George’s “Making Men Moral” at 30

I’m delighted to announce a conference on Robert George’s groundbreaking book, Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality, on the 30th anniversary of its publication. The conference will be held November 30-December 1, and is being jointly organized by AEI, the Ethics & Public Policy Center, Pepperdine University, and the Project on Constitutional Originalism and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition at Catholic University. You can see the terrific program at the link.

I’m particularly pleased to contribute something to this conference, as Robby’s book was a major influence on me as I thought about an academic career many years ago, shaping the way I thought about so-called “legal moralism” and many other questions in constitutional law and theory that came to occupy me in later years. And I continue to use the book to this day in my own classes as a model to introduce some of the foundational questions of governance that it discusses.

International Moot Court Competition in Law and Religion

Here’s an announcement for a very worthwhile moot court competition in comparative law and religion in Milan this fall. I’ve had the honor of judging the competition in past years and can attest that it’s a unique and fun event for everyone concerned. Law students who are interested in the topic should seriously consider fielding a team! For more info, follow the links — MLM

After many successful editions, the International Moot Court Competition in Law and Religion is moving this year to Milan, Italy!

The Seventh Edition of the Program will run from September 18 to September 19, 2023, in Milan, Italy.

Teams from, within, and outside Europe will argue a case before the European Court of Human Rights and the Supreme Court of the United States. Pre-eminent scholars and actual judges from the two jurisdictions will sit as judges of the two Courts.

Have a look here, for a glimpse of the past editions, where Teams from the United States, Russia, the UK, and Italy gathered together and plead before prominent Judges.

The new case and all the details on the Competition will available soon for download at https://mootcourtmilano2023.wordpress.com/.

Stay tuned and do not miss a terrific opportunity to engage in a global conversation on Law and Religion!

Teams and individuals willing to participate in the program should email mcmilano2023@gmail.com

Writeup of Last Week’s Symposium on the Nones

For all who are interested, here’s a writeup of our symposium last week on the rise of the Nones and its potential impact on the Religion Clauses. I participated in the symposium, which was co-sponsored by the St. John’s Law Review, along with Steve Collis of the Bech-Loughlin First Amendment Center at UT-Austin and Greg Sisk of the St. Thomas Law (Minnesota). We’re planning a podcast soon, so keep your ears open for that!

Video of Last Week’s Panel at Cardozo

The Floersheimer Center at Cardozo Law School has posted a video (below) of last week’s panel discussion on “The Supreme Court and New Frontiers in Religious Liberty,” in which I was honored to participate, along with Nelson Tebbe (Cornell), Elizabeth Reiner Platt (Columbia Law), and Giselle Klapper (Sikh Coalition) . Thanks again to Michael Pollak, Hui Yang, and the Floersheimer team for having me–and for hosting a cordial and productive exchange of disparate views in the best tradition of the legal academy.

Discussion on the Role of Tradition in Constitutional Law at CUA

Here’s another event in which I’ll be participating at Catholic University, this one a discussion on Thursday at 12:30 with Professor Ernest Young and Professor Kevin Walsh, The Role of Tradition in Constitutional Law. The event is part of CUA’s Project on Constitutional Originalism and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition (though some renegade non-originalists like me sometimes sneak in, too!). Again, the event will be recorded, but if you are in town, please stop by and say hello!

Morningside Institute Seminars on Natural Law

The Morningside Institute will host two seminars on natural law, on March 22 and 29, at Columbia Law School. See below for details:

Natural Law: Aquinas, Locke, and the Moral Foundations of America

From the Declaration of Independence to Letter from Birmingham Jail, Americans have appealed to the natural law as the foundation of political action and justice in our society. Today, however, the natural law is widely contested and rejected by some as partisan or dangerous. In this seminar series, Philip Hamburger (Columbia) and Nathaniel Peters (Morningside) will explore Thomas Aquinas’s and John Locke’s conceptions of the natural law and how they might help us understand the moral foundations of twenty-first century America.

Part I of this seminar will meet from 6:00 PM-7:30 PM on March 22, 2023 in Case Lounge, 7th floor of main law school building, Jerome Greene Hall (435 W. 116th St). Due to policies at the law school, you must register to attend.

Part II of this seminar will meet from 6:00 PM-7:30 PM on March 29, 2023 in Room 416 of William and June Warren Hall on Amsterdan Avenue. Due to policies at the law school, you must register to attend.

Speaking at Cardozo Tomorrow

Just a note that I’ll participate in a panel discussion on the Supreme Court’s free exercise jurisprudence tomorrow at Cardozo Law School’s Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy:

The Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy is proud to present The Supreme Court and New Frontiers in Religious Liberty. Join us for a conversation with First Amendment experts and practitioners to discuss the future of First Amendment Free Exercise and Establishment Clause jurisprudence.

Cardozo Professor Michael Pollack will lead a discussion on the Court’s jurisprudence and its impact on civil liberties, religious liberty, and separation of church and state. Panelists include Cornell Professor of Law Nelson Tebbe (author of “Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age”), St. John’s Professor of Law Mark Movsesian (co-director of The Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University Law School), Elizabeth Reiner Platt (Director of Columbia’s Law, Rights, and Religion Project), and Giselle Klapper (Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney).

Proof of vaccination is required. Masks are required.

Details about tickets below. Friends of CLR, please stop by and say hello!

Symposium on the Rise of the Nones and American Law

The Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s Law School invites you to attend:  The Rise of the Nones and American Law. Millions of Americans—perhaps as high as 30% of the adult population—now tell surveyors that they have no religious affiliation. Most of these Americans, the “Nones,” do not reject belief, but traditional religious organizations. They have their own, personal spiritual commitments that draw on many sources. The Nones, who are beginning to show up in the case law, have the potential to transform establishment and free exercise jurisprudence.  

Join us for a panel discussion about these issues with Professors Steven Collis (University of Texas Law School), Mark Movsesian (St. John’s), Gregory Sisk (University of St. Thomas School of Law), and Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York).  This event is co-sponsored by the ST. JOHN’S JOURNAL OF CATHOLIC LEGAL STUDIES.  

Date
Thursday, March 23, 2023 

Time
5:30 – 8:30 p.m. 

Location
New York Athletic Club
180 Central Park South
New York, NY 10019 

Register to Attend
The event is free, but space is limited, so please register in advance (When registering, use password SPRING). 

Why Read Great Books? Liberal Education in the Twenty-First Century

The Morningside Institute is hosting a conversation between Roosevelt Montás (Columbia) and Zena Hitz (St. John’s College), moderated by Emmanuelle Saada (Columbia), as they discuss the role of liberal education in our time. The conversation will take place on February 3, 2023, at Columbia University’s Faculty House, Presidential Room 1, at 6:30 PM. Please see below to RSVP. Additionally, if you cannot attend in person, please access the Zoom link below.

Are some books “great” in a way others are not? How can a core curriculum represent all the members of a university community? How should we justify liberal education today? These questions shaped many universities’ curricula, including Columbia’s Core, and today are at the center of debates about the purpose of education and the university. 

Barclay on Religious Exemptions and Hate Speech

This past July, the Center co-hosted a conference in Rome, “Liberalism’s Limits: Religious Exemptions and Hate Speech.” The conference, which addressed the challenges that religious exemptions and hate-speech regulations pose for liberalism, was divided into three workshops, for which participants submitted short reflection papers. Professor Stephanie Barclay (Notre Dame) submitted the following paper for Workshop 2, on religious exemptions, which we are delighted to publish here:

One enduring question of liberal democracies is how to reconcile the tension between claims to authority by the rulers and claims to liberty by the governed. [1] Debates about the validity of religious exemptions often play out as a microcosm of this larger discussion. Some, such as the late Justice Antonin Scalia, have argued that a country would be “courting anarchy” if it too generously provided exemptions to legal rules based on religious objections.[2] At the other end of the spectrum, the United States Supreme Court has also recognized that “[t]hose who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.”[3] I have argued elsewhere that a legal regime which never provides religious exemptions is primed to increase human suffering and decrease human dignity by penalizing (or making impossible) actions individuals feel they must (or must not) take to comply with higher divine mandates.[4]

One standard answer to the broader dilemma of reconciling authority and liberty is what some scholars term the consent proposition,[5] also reflected in social contract theory that pervades thinking by luminaries such as Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Rawls. This proposition is embodied in the American Declaration of Independence as a “self-evident truth”—that “Governments . . . deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed.” On this account, consent is often emphasized as the sole source of political legitimacy of a legal regime.  Steven Smith has surveyed problems with the consent proposition as an unpersuasive fiction if we are looking for consent on the level of an autonomous individual born into a legal community.[6] But that might be looking to the wrong unit of the populace (just one lone individual) to give consent. As Richard Ekins has explained in his work on joint action theory, groups can act in purposeful ways where a body like “the people” can consent to certain frameworks—like a constitution—for self-governance. To be a free people, the people in the singular is the ruler and agent, and the people in the plural are the ruled and the principals.[7] And for the consent of the group action to be legitimate, the people must have meaningful opportunities to change the legal rules they’ve put in place in the future.

Assuming consent by the people can resolve the tension between authority and liberty generally, how can religious exemptions be provided in a way that is consistent with this type of self-governance? One obvious answer is the use of legislative religious exemptions. Through this method, the people can act jointly in a deliberative manner to protect space for religious exercise where frequent conflicts (and often high-stakes conflicts) can arise between authority and the liberty of a religious objector. In Early American history, the United States offered exemptions from the draft to Quakers who objected on religious grounds to military service.[8] Religious exemptions can be offered in more mundane contexts, like tax exemptions for churches, when the people may judge that excluding some religious institutions from some obligations provides relevant goods to society in other important ways.

While critically important, legislative religious exemptions present some shortcomings. One is that they are usually more attuned to the needs of majoritarian religious groups (or at least large and well-known religious groups) than minority religious groups. For the conflict between authority and religious liberty to have been significant enough to have garnered legislative attention, it’s reasonable to assume that those sorts of conflicts are most obvious when a significant portion of the population shares the belief that gave rise to that conflict. For example, many prisons recognize religious exemptions for kosher dietary requirements. But few recognize exemptions for a Kemetic diet required by adherents of Shetaut Neter.[9] A second limitation is that some types of religious objections result from unexpected applications of a law. These conflicts are thus unlikely to involve a legislative compromise in advance that includes a religious exemption. Third, many government policies are promulgated by agencies, rather than legislatures. Scholars like Philip Hamburger have noted that these less politically accountable institutions are often less sympathetic to the need to craft religious exemptions that would apply to new policies.[10]

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