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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Religion Meets Commerce

I'm in the midst of preparations (along with Bob Cochran) for the upcoming Third Annual Religious Legal Theory Conference, "The Competing Claims of Law & Religion: Who Should Influence Whom," which will be hosted by Pepperdine Law School on February 23-25.  We're anticipating over 70 speakers, including Prawfs Rick Garnett and Paul Horwitz.

Putting together the panels for the conference has been an extraordinary treat - although at times it feels like one of those LSAT logic games - with so many amazing speakers joining us for the conference.  As should be expected, many of the submitted proposals bring new perspectives to some of the classic constitutional law & religion topics: religious accommodation, neutrality towards religion, questions of conscience etc.

But one of the interesting trends I noticed was an increasing number of papers addressing what I would term "religion meets commerce."  For example, presentations at the conference are slated to include Barak Richman's paper on the impact of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act on hiring within religious organizations, Lyman Johnson's paper the role of religious norms in constructing fiduciary obligations, and  Todd Williams' paper addressing sharia compliant finance.  Of course, such topics frequently incorporate questions of constitutional law.  But importantly, such topics also push law & religion beyond the confines of constitutional law and into the sphere of private law. 

I've previously expressed (or maybe implied) here on Prawfs my enthusiasm for law & religion breaking out of its constitutional law mold and engaging more questions of private law.  In my recent article Religious Arbitration and the New Multiculturalism, I try to highlight how thinking critically about contract doctrines like public policy and unconscionability will play a major role in shaping the extent of authority and autonomy experienced by religious groups.   And, to the extent questions revolving around the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses get caught in a doctrinal logjam, there seems to be any number of fruitful lines of inquiry open where law & religion intersects with private law.

For those of you able to make it, please join is this February for the conference.  It should be quite an event!

Posted by Michael Helfand on November 22, 2011 at 06:12 PM in Religion | Permalink


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