Monday, June 27, 2011
Along with several other MOJ'ers, I attended the Annual Law & Religion Roundtable at Northwestern Law School this past Thursday and Friday. As Steve Shiffrin and Marc DeGirolami's posts (here and here) have already suggested, it was a wonderful conference. The biggest reason for my delay in posting about the gathering was that there is so much one could write about.
Among the presentations was one by Alan Brownstein (UC Davis), who advances an alternative ground for religious liberty, one grounded in love. Arguing that the conventional religious justification for religious freedom, which describes the relationship between the person and God as that of sovereign subject, is unconvincing to unbelievers, he suggests that the theological argument in support of religious liberty be cast in terms of our duty to God being a manifestation of a relationship grounded on love. Brownstein argues that claims for religious liberty based on the relationship between the believer and God being one based on love may be more persuasive and less threatening to nonbelievers than claims based on a relationship of sovereignty.
This argument generated a lot of discussion by the roundtable participants - both regarding the extent to which is mattered to Brownstein's claim whether the love between a human and God and is the same or different as the love between two human beings, and whether a claim based on love make it less easy to distinguish religion as deserving of special protection in the law.
I loved the love argument for two reasons. First, it grounds religious liberty in that which I believe to be most foundational from a spiritual perspective - the love relationship between us and God. Second, love is a much more powerful force for our action than is obedience to a sovereign. Obedience to the law makes us think of doing what we need to do to satisfy the letter of the law. Love as a grounding motivates us to fully actualize the command of hte law.
Hopefully some of the other MOJ'ers in attendance will post some other thoughts.