Thursday, May 3, 2012
I've just spent a thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating day enjoying the abundant hospitality of Touro Law Center, which is hosting the 2012 Conference of Religously Affiliated law Schools. The organizer, Sam Levine, has done spectacular job in assembling a diverse set of perspectives on the topic: "The Place of Religion in the Law School, The University, and the Practice of Law." You can see the entire schedule here: http://www.tourolaw.edu/pdf/RALS_Program_Layout%201.pdf . (Sorry, but I can't figure out how to do hyperlinks from my i-pad, and I already managed to lose the text of this post twice while trying to get it posted.)
Yesterday evening, we heard from a panel of presidents (past and present) of religiously-affiliated colleges. Today, we began with two panels on the role of Law and Religion Institutes in the law school and the university. In my remarks about the Murphy Institute, I focused the role such institutes can play in fostering interdisciplinary engagement on legal questions, to help the university achieve something closer to John Henry Newman's ideal of the university as "a place of teaching universal knowledge." Michael Broyde from the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory sparked some friendly fireworks with his provocative claim that law and religion institutes at religiously-affiliated schools are necessarily compromised in their ability to engage in an intellectually honest pursuit of truth, a claim that (as you would expect in this RALS crowd) engendered lively debate.
We were then privileged by a luncheon talk by Nate Lewin, who shared some extraordinary behind-the-scenes war stories about some of the significant religious liberty cases he has litigated over the years. After sharing a beautiful Mincha -- the Jewish afternoon prayer service -- a panel of public servants -- judges, the District Attorney of Brooklyn, the director of St. John's Vincentian Center for Church and Society, and the Director of Pepperdine's Special Education Clinic -- provided a fascinating array of perspectives on the role of faith in the lives of service they have chose. And if those weren't enough different perspectives, dinner included a historical perspective -- Chief Judge Loretta Preska (USDJ, SDNY) spoke about the 1657 Flushing Remonstrance, the petition by a group of Englishmen to Peter Stuyvesant, arguing against a decree forbidding Quaker worship; it'sconsidered to be our first articulation of the right to religious freedom.
Tomorrow brings another full morning of panels focusing on the place of religion in the teaching and practice of law.
Kudos to Sam Levine for pulling together such an excellent conference, and thanks to Touro's Dean Raful for Touro Law School's generous support of such an important conversation!