Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Proselytism and Religious Freedom

This conference, at Georgetown's Berkley Center, should be excellent:

In the context of a globalizing world marked by the freer flow of people and ideas, proselytism has become increasingly controversial. On March 3, 2010, the Berkley Center will sponsor a day-long symposium on proselytism and religious freedom in the 21st century. Experts from a variety of scholarly and policy fields will investigate the theological, legal, and political implications of the missionary impulse.

8:30 am - 8:55 am: Light breakfast available

9:00 am: Welcome: Thomas Banchoff, Director, Berkley Center

9:05 am - 10:20 am: Proselytism as Religious Duty
Richard Land, Southern Baptist Convention
Imam Mohamed Magid, All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center
Randi Rashkover, George Mason University
Moderator: Timothy Samuel Shah, Boston University

10:20 - 10:30: Break

10:30 am - 12:00 pm: The Political Implications of Proselytism
Salam Al Marayati, Muslim Political Action Committee
Leah Daughtry , House of Lord Church, Washington, DC
Matthew Richards, Brigham Young University
Moderator: Eric Patterson, Berkley Center

12:00 pm - 12:30 pm: Buffet Lunch

12:45 pm - 1:45 pm: Keynote Debate: Proselytism Pros and Cons
Jose Casanova, Georgetown and the Berkley Center
Gerard V. Bradley, Notre Dame Law School
Moderator: Thomas Farr, Berkley Center

1:45 - 2:00: Break

2:00 pm - 3:15 pm: The Legal and Social Dimensions of Proselytism
Robert Woodberry, University of Texas
Roger Finke, Penn State
Angela Wu, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Moderator: Allen Hertzke, University of Oklahoma

For some of my own thoughts on proselytism and religious freedom, please read this paper, "Changing Minds:  Proseyltism, Religious Freedom, and the First Amendment":

Proselytism is, as Paul Griffiths has observed, a topic enjoying renewed attention in recent years. What's more, the practice, aims, and effects of proselytism are increasingly framed not merely in terms of piety and zeal; they are seen as matters of geopolitical, cultural, and national-security significance as well. Indeed, it is fair to say that one of today's more pressing challenges is the conceptual and practical tangle of religious liberty, free expression, cultural integrity, and political stability. This essay is an effort to unravel that tangle by drawing on the religious-freedom-related work and teaching of the late Pope John Paul II and on a salient theme in the law interpreting the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

Running through and shaping our First Amendment doctrines, precedents, and values is a solicitude for changing minds - our own, as well as others'. Put differently, the Amendment is understood as protecting and celebrating not just expression but persuasion - or, if you like, proselytism. There are, therefore, reasons grounded in our Constitution and traditions for regarding proselytism and its legal protection not as threats to the common good and the freedom of conscience, but instead as integral to the flourishing and good exercise of that freedom. This same solicitude for persuasion and freedom pervades the writing of Pope John Paul II, who regularly insisted that the Church's evangelical mission does not restrict freedom but rather promotes it. The Church proposes - thereby inviting the exercise of human freedom - she imposes nothing. The claim here, then, is that proposing, persuading, proselytizing, and evangelizing are at the heart of, and need not undermine, not only the freedoms protected by the Constitution, but also those that are inherent in our dignity as human persons.


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