Friday, October 19, 2012
"The Freedom of the Church in the Modern Era"
Last weekend, I participated (along with Paul Horwitz and GuestPrawfVets Caroline Corbin, Rob Vischer, Nelson Tebbe, Michael Helfand, and others) in what was, I think, the most rewarding academic conference I've experienced: "The Freedom of the Church in the Modern Era." Thanks and congrats to Larry Alexander and Steve Smith, of the University of San Diego, and their new Institute for Law and Religion, for organizing and hosting. Here's the conference blurb:
The Western commitment to freedom of religion, reflected in the United States Constitution and in a variety of international human rights documents, arguably descends from the medieval campaign for libertas ecclesiae—“freedom of the church.” In modern times, though, it seems that the progeny (freedom of religion) has largely displaced—and forgotten—the parent (freedom of the church). Jurists and scholars debate whether there is any constitutional commitment to freedom of the church, or church autonomy, or institutional free exercise. And they often suppose that such commitment, if there is one, must be derivative from a more fundamental commitment to freedom of religion.
The issue of freedom of the church has become urgent in recent years. Claimants sue churches in secular courts for what they perceive as abuse or discrimination. Government agencies act to compel religiously-affiliated institutions to provide goods or services such as contraceptives or abortion. In 2011 the Supreme Court considered for the first time a case raising the issue of the so-called “ministerial exemption” for churches from some federal regulatory laws. Opposing the position taken by numerous lower courts, the Obama Administration argued in that case that the Supreme Court should reject the exemption.
This conference will accordingly consider issues related to freedom of the church . . .
Micah Schwartzman and Rich Schragger presented their paper, "Against Religious Institutionalism" (discussed earlier here on Prawfs); Steve and Paul added to the body of important work they've done on the institutional dimension of religious freedom and the First Amendment more generally; I tried to update and expand my defense of "the freedom of the church" as a still important (i.e., not anachronistic) idea; and a number of us did an interpretive dance-reenactment of the Canossa meeting between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV. Lots of other interesting papers were presented, and they should be out this Spring in the San Diego Law Review. Stay tuned!
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