CFP: the Fifth Annual Religious Legal Theory Conference at Emory Law School

I am delighted to announce a call for papers for the Religious Legal Theory Conference, now in its fifth year. Mark and I were pleased to host the conference in its second incarnation, where the theme was Religion in Law, Law in Religion.

This year’s conference is being put together by the superb Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory Law School, which is directed by the éminence grise of law and religion, John Witte. The theme this year is A Global Conversation: Exploring Interfaith and International Models for the Interaction of Religion and State. The conference will be held on February 24-25, 2014. Paper proposals are due November 30, 2013, with notification shortly thereafter. Please contact Dr. Mark Goldfeder of Emory Law School with your proposal.

Below the fold, the conference description and details of the call for papers. Continue reading

Blogging the Religious Legal Theory Conference

TouroI spent this morning at the fourth annual Religious Legal Theory Conference, hosted this year by Sam Levine at Touro Law School. I moderated a panel, “Religious Legal Theory and the Perspectives of ‘Others.'” The idea for the panel, which was Sam’s, was to bring together scholars who write about law in religious traditions other than their own, something that I tried to do a few years ago at the first Religious Legal Theory Conference with my essay, Fiqh and Canons.

The presentations were interesting and covered a variety of perspectives. Randy Lee (Widener) spoke about his experience as a Christian studying Jewish law. He said that this experience had taught him the importance of “listening Jewish”–to find the best in others. He wondered whether “Godly lawyers” who listened to clients in this way might actually transform lives. In response to a question from me, Randy stated that he did not think that all lawyers who study religious law would have his experience, or should; but, in studying Jewish law, he realized that he himself was a “variable,” not a “constant,” and that he himself had been transformed.

David Friedman (Santa Clara) is an atheist who studies the history of religious legal systems. He argued that Jewish and Islamic law both rest in part on pre-existing, decentralized  “feud systems,” characterized by private retaliation for wrongs. He gave examples from both systems. Friedman also addressed the problems that arise in legal systems that have God, rather than humans, as “the legislator,” and the various interpretive devices such systems employ to mitigate what seem to be disproportionate penalties called for in sacred scripture- Islamic law rules calling for amputation as punishment for theft, for example.

Philip Ackerman-Lieberman (Vanderbilt), who is Jewish, spoke about his work on the interactions between Islamic and Jewish commercial law in medieval Cairo. He argued that scholars should not concern themselves only with a comparison of legal details, but should study social and legal structures as a whole. Structural analysis reveals that the Islamic legal culture and Jewish legal subculture influenced each other in a kind of “dialogue.” The two systems shared ideas, but also differentiated themselves from one another–and in this differentiation may be found the distinctive elements of each legal tradition. Philip suggested that the study of legal theory and commercial practice in medieval Cairo could have an impact on contemporary issues faced by Islam and Judaism.

Religious Legal Theory Conference at Touro (April 11-12)

Over the next couple of days, Touro is hosting the fourth annual Religious Legal Theory Conference. Both Marc and I are on the program tomorrow, moderating panels on “Philosophical and Political Perspectives on Religious Legal Theory” and “Religious Legal Theory and Perspectives of ‘Others.’ Stop by and say hello!

Pepperdine Law Review Publishes Religious Legal Theory Symposium

Papers from the third annual Religious Legal Theory Conference, organized by Bob Cochran and Mike Helfand at Pepperdine in 2012, have appeared in the Pepperdine Law Review. A great collection of papers, available on the law review’s website, here. Congratulations to Bob and Mike.

Garnett on Koppelman and Religious Neutrality

Richard Garnett just posted “Neutrality and the Good of Religious Freedom: An Appreciative Response to Professor Koppelman” on SSRN (check out his short post about the paper here as well).  The piece was prepared for the recent conference we held at Pepperdine Law School, titled “The Competing Claims of Law & Religion: Who Should Influence Whom” and will be published in the upcoming symposium volume of the Pepperdine Law Review dedicated to papers from the conference.  Here’s the abstract for Garnett’s paper:

This paper is a short response to an address, “And I Don’t Care What It Is: Religious Neutrality in American Law,” delivered by Prof. Andrew Koppelman at a conference, “The Competing Claims of Law and Religion: Who Should Influence Whom?”, which was held at Pepperdine University in February of 2012. In this response, it is suggested – among other things – that “American religious neutrality” is, as Koppelman argues, “coherent and attractive” because and to the extent that it is not neutral with respect to the goal and good of religious freedom.

Religious freedom, in the American tradition, is not what results from the operationalization in law of hostility toward religion. It is not (only) what results from a program of conflict-avoidance or division-dampening. It is not merely the product of those compromises that were necessary to secure the ratification of the original Constitution. It is, instead, a valuable and necessary feature of any attractive legal regime, because it reflects, promotes, and helps to constitute human flourishing. So, and again, the state should remain “neutral” with respect to most religious questions – primarily because the resolution of such questions is outside the jurisdiction, and not just the competence, of civil authorities – but it may and should affirm enthusiastically that religious freedom is a good thing that should be protected and nurtured in law and policy.

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