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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Religious freedom conference in Portland

This conference might be of interest:  This weekend (Thurs-Sat), the University of Portland's Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and Culture is hosting a conference, "The American Experiment in Religious Freedom."  Justice Scalia is delivering the keynote address, and presenters include:  Judge John Noonan, Kevin Hasson, Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Jean Bethke Elshtain, the lovely and talented Nicole Stelle Garnett, and many others.  Check it out.

Posted by Rick Garnett on April 11, 2007 at 11:48 PM in Religion | Permalink


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Doug Laycock not only writes and participates in Law and Religion conferences, but we all know he is one of the leaders in the field. He is also openly agnostic. I think I would not be putting too many words in his mouth to say that he quite correctly believes in the principle that as mediating institutions, churches serve to protect liberty for all, and therefore, protection of religious liberty and religious practice is itself protecting "liberty" more generally, and one of his articles is entitled, "Religious Liberty as Liberty."

Posted by: Jennifer Spreng | May 2, 2007 4:45:50 PM

I didn't take Prof. Alces to be engaging in anything like "ad hominem" attacks. That said, I'm pretty comfortable saying that this Univ. of Portland conference (like most law-and-religion-related conferences I've attended) is at *least* as diverse, and probably more so, in terms of views, approaches, and commitments, as the typical law-prof confab. I should have mentioned, by the way, the participation of Steven Green, who is very prolific, a religious believer, and a fairly strict separationist.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Apr 13, 2007 11:36:08 AM

Wow, I got to admit, I am amazed that anyone could have inferred an "obvious" ad hominem attack from my question. Certainly "md" could be accused of exhibiting less than appropriate Christian charity, and also be criticized for doing so (apparently) anonymously. Actually, by "non-theistic" I did mean agnostics or atheists who question the morality of religion, which Harris, Dawkins, and Dennett (and others) have shown us is not an idle exercise. But I in no way suggested that anyone who writes about law and religion is a "nut jub believer."

Posted by: Pete Alces | Apr 12, 2007 7:15:43 PM

I would think a charitable interpretation is warranted here, and Paul's answer is helpful. I have also sometimes wondered to what extent liberal/separationist views are represented at similar conferences about religious freedom. There have been a number of notable conferences/symposia in the last year or two (including at Notre Dame and St. John's ). Whether they provide the kind of balance and diversity discussed on this blog in another context seems like a fair question.

Posted by: Micah Schwartzman | Apr 12, 2007 6:00:12 PM


That was a charitable response. You overlooked, with your usual politesse, the more obvious ad hominem spirit in which Professor Alces might have intended the term "non-theistic." Something along the lines of, 'anyone who writes in the area of law and religion is a nut job believer.' Perhaps Professor Alces did not intend to convey that sentiment. But it certainly belongs as a possibility in your 1A response.

Posted by: md | Apr 12, 2007 1:58:15 PM

I should have added Larry Alexander to the list.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Apr 12, 2007 10:36:32 AM

Although Peter states a reasonable concern that may be borne out in some or even many cases, surely the answer is: 1) Yes. 1A) It depends on what you mean by "non-theistic." If you mean open atheists or agnostics, I suppose one might worry about how much this happens, but one would still have to ask how many such individuals write in the area of law and religion; I think more should but I don't know how many do. If by "non-theistic" you mean simply scholars who do not write from a strongly identifiable religious motive or perspective, surely the answer is yes. Steven Gey speaks regularly and seems both to be separationist in orientation and to not have a markedly theistic perspective. Marci Hamilton, although she confesses her religion in her writing, doesn't write from a theistic perspective and is well known for cautioning about the dangers of religion; I could say similar things about William Marshall. At the conference in question, I don't known Colin Diver's views on these subjects but hadn't previously associated him with any well-known strongly held theistic views, although I may just not know his work in this area well enough. Similarly, how would you label Senator Leahy?

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Apr 12, 2007 10:35:37 AM

I'm just wondering, do these Law and Religion Conferences ever include scholars who are non-theistic?

Posted by: Pete Alces | Apr 12, 2007 8:41:57 AM

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