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Our Programs

The Center for Law and Religion (CLR) hosts academic conferences, symposia, workshops and other programs on a wide range of subjects related to law and religion. These programs are held at the Law School and at St. John’s foreign campuses in Rome, Italy and Paris, France. Drawing scholars from around the world, our programs promote an important open dialogue on the relationship between religion and the state and the role of law in various religious traditions.

Recent Programs

The Tradition Project
This research initiative, supported by generous grants from the Lynde and Harry Bradley and the Achelis and Bodman Foundations, explores the value of tradition for contemporary citizens and the relationship of tradition and change in today’s world. Inaugurated in in 2016, the Tradition Project brings together leading public figures, scholars, judges, and journalists for lectures, workshops, and sponsored research. Work related to the Project will include book manuscripts, journal articles, and curricular development. The Project’s first meeting, highlighted by a keynote address from Stanford Law Professor Michael McConnell, took place in New York City in October 2016. The second is planned for Fall 2017.

Colloquium in Law and Religion
This innovative biannual seminar, taught jointly by CLR Director Mark Movsesian and Associate Director Marc DeGirolami, gives selected St. John’s students an opportunity to study with some of the most prominent thinkers in law and religion. Participants present draft papers to the class and students write short, critical papers in response. In 2014, the course was taught jointly with Villanova Law School. Participants in the colloquium have included Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, as well as Professors Donald L. Drakeman (Cambridge), Sarah Barringer Gordon (University of Pennsylvania), Robert P. George (Princeton), Kent Greenawalt (Columbia),Philip Hamburger (Columbia), Kristine Kalanges (Notre Dame), Cathleen Kaveny (Notre Dame), Michael McConnell (Stanford), Elizabeth Prodromou (Tufts), Ayelet Shachar (Toronto), Brett G. Scharffs (BYU) ; Steven D. Smith (University of San Diego), Mark Tushnet (Harvard), Michael Walzer (Institute for Advanced Studies), Joseph Weiler (NYU/EUI), and Robin Fretwell Wilson (Illinois).

Global Law Fellows Program
Inaugurated in 2016, the Global Law Fellows program brings foreign graduate students to the Center for one semester. The students audit courses in law and religion and work on their research. Our first Global Law Fellow is Ms. Fabiana Dal Cin from the State University Cà Foscari (Venice), who is spending Spring Semester 2016 at St. John’s, finishing her PhD thesis on Catholic social teaching and property law.

International Religious Freedom and the Global Clash of Values
This major conference, which CLR co-sponsored with the Department of Law at the Libera Università Maria SS. Assunta (LUMSA), took place in Rome in June 2014. Pope Francis provided a keynote address. The conference brought together scholars and public figures from Europe and the United States to address the place of religious freedom in international politics and human rights law. The proceedings were published, in Italian and English, in La Libertà Religiosa Secondo Il Diritto Internazionale e Il Conflitto Globale dei Valori (2015).

Past Programs

Religious Liberty in the 2012 Election: A Constitution Day Debate (September 27, 2012)
To mark Constitution Day 2012, the Center hosted this engaging panel program that brought two leading law and religion scholars together to discuss topics ranging from the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act to the so-called “ministerial exception” to the civil rights laws -- religious liberty issues that figured prominently in the 2012 presidential campaign.

State-Sponsored Religious Symbols in the U.S. and Europe (June 22, 2012)
Co-sponsored in Rome with the Department of Law at Libera Università Maria SS. Assunta (LUMSA), this event brought together leading American and European scholars, judges, and politicians to address the legality of public religious displays in different nations. The conference took place at LUMSA's main campus in the Borgo district, near the Vatican. Proceedings were in English and Italian with simultaneous translation. Papers will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Catholic Legal StudiesView full program (PDF).

Careers in Law and Religion (October 23, 2012)
Law and religion is a growing practice area. Lawyers in this field represent religious institutions, private clients, and all levels of government. They litigate cases, assist with regulatory matters, advocate for religious liberty and human rights and arbitrate before religious tribunals. At this panel program co-hosted by the Center and the Law School's Career Development Office, practitioners in this vital practice area discussed their work, their career paths and their predictions for the future.

Religion and Bankruptcy: Perspectives Thereon and Treatment Therein (September 16, 2011)
Co-hosted by the Center for Bankruptcy Studies, this conference addressed the Bankruptcy Code’s treatment of religious organizations and religious understandings of commercial insolvency. Geoffrey Miller of NYU provided the conference keynote. Papers are published in the American Bankruptcy Institute Law Review.

Religious Legal Theory Conference (November 5, 2010)
This conference offered a range of perspectives on traditional religion/state questions and the concept of law in different religious traditions. Plenary speakers included Professor Steven H. Shiffrin of Cornell Law School and Professor Steven D. Smith of the University of San Diego School of Law. Papers appear in the St. John’s Law Review. View full program (PDF)

Christians in the Middle East: Contemporary Human Rights Issues (October 21, 2010)
This robust panel discussion sponsored by the Center addressed the human rights concerns of Christian communities in the Middle East. Panelists spoke about the daily problems these communities face and the potential for addressing them through the international human rights regime. View full program (PDF)

Laïcité in Comparative Perspective (June 10-11, 2010)
The Center held its inaugural conference, Laïcité in Comparative Perspective, at St. John’s Paris campus. Scholars from the United States and Europe presented papers and particpated in robust roundtable discussions that compared the French model of church-state relations, laïcité, with models that exist in other countries, including the United States, Italy and Spain. The conference proceedings are published in the St. John’s Journal of Catholic Legal Studies. View full program (PDF)