I’m posting today from the biannual Conference of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools (RALS), hosted this year by Sam Levine at Touro. The first panel this morning, on which I participated, was titled “The Place of Law and Religion Institutes in the Law School and University.” The panel made clear how many such institutes exist in American law schools and how diverse are their interests. I spoke about our Center for Law and Religion here at St. John’s. Our center focuses on religion as a legal and sociological phenomenon and treats the subject from a broadly interfaith and comparative perspective. Elizabeth Schiltz, director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy at St. Thomas, described her center as having a slightly different focus, rooted more specifically in the Catholic intellectual and legal tradition. Elizabeth Clark, associate director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU, described her center’s primary concern as promoting religious freedom around the world. Of course, there is a lot of overlap in the matters the centers cover. Yet the diversity of focus is a great sign that law and religion is a growth area in American law schools and that there is plenty of work to go around.
Robert William Piatt, Jr. (St. Mary’s) has published Catholic Legal Perspectives (Carolina Academic Press 2012), designed for classes on jurisprudence and Catholic legal theory. The publisher’s description follows.
This book examines our system of justice by identifying, in several critical areas, how Catholic principles and legal principles overlap and diverge. While it is not expected or required that the reader agree, in every instance, with either the law or the Catholic perspectives, the reader of this work will come away with an understanding of both. Critiques and responses are included throughout. Topics include family issues (marriage, same sex marriage, divorce, and annulment), immigration, public assistance, and matters of life and death (including abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty).
Lee J. Strang (U. of Toledo College of Law) and John M. Breen (Loyola U. Chicago School of Law) have posted The Road Not Taken: Catholic Legal Education at the Middle of the Twentieth Century. This article dovetails nicely with Ashley Berner’s recent article on the CLR Forum, Education and Belief: Ontology. The abstract for Strang and Breen’s article follows.
The Road Not Taken describes the history and animating themes of American Catholic legal education. The heart of The Road Not Taken is a now forgotten episode in the history of American legal education. In the late 1930s, a number of leading Catholic legal scholars issued a call for reform — a proposal which urged Catholic law schools to educate in a manner distinctive from their non-Catholic peers. While open to students from diverse faith backgrounds, the proponents of this reform argued that teaching and scholarship at Catholic law schools should be grounded in the Catholic intellectual tradition. As we demonstrate, however, this call for reform went unanswered. Had it succeeded, it could have profoundly changed both the landscape of legal education and the face of the legal profession.
In this Article, we accomplish three goals. First, we describe the founding and early years of Catholic legal education. Second, we detail the national effort to reform Catholic legal education that began in the 1930s and which was driven, in large measure, by the rise of Legal Realism at home and the threat of totalitarianism abroad. Third, we explore the social, institutional, and historical reasons that explain why the reform effort failed.