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Center for Law and Religion Convenes Its Tradition Project’s Second Meeting

Fall 2017 Tradition Project Meeting
Monday, November 13, 2017

The second meeting of the Center for Law and Religion’s Tradition Project, a conference on “Tradition, Culture, and Citizenship,” took place in New York on November 2-4, 2017.

Launched in 2016, the Tradition Project is a three-year research initiative that seeks to develop a broad understanding of what tradition might continue to offer for law, culture, and politics, and that explores the relationship between tradition and change in today’s world.

For its first meeting last year, the Project presented a conference on “Tradition in Law and Politics.” The Project also co-sponsored a conference last summer at the Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Trento, Italy, on traditionalism in American and Russian law and politics.

This year’s conference, keynoted by writer and philosopher Sir Roger Scruton and supported by generous grants from the Achelis and Bodman Foundation and the Notre Dame Program on Church, State & Society, brought together scholars, judges, lawyers, bloggers, and policy experts for a sustained, two-day round-table discussion.

In his keynote, Sir Roger explored the relationship among tradition, culture, and citizenship which, he argued, work together to sustain our political and social institutions. Although “tenuous, fragile, and subject to many interpretations,” he said, tradition, culture, and citizenship “are among the most important assets we have,” in that they prevent our society from becoming “simply a power struggle among groups.” As an example, Sir Roger offered the common law tradition, which embodies the practical wisdom of our society and applies it to the resolution of legal disputes.

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Following Sir Roger’s keynote, conference participants took part in two days of workshops, where they discussed selected readings on tradition and community; politics and public institutions; the market and technology; pluralism and identity; and the American university. Scholars who selected the readings led the discussions.

The conference achieved its goal in promoting debate on the continuing role of tradition in American life and law, and in suggesting insights for the participants to use in their future work. “I really enjoyed the company, and it was one of the most intellectually stimulating experiences I have had in a long time,” said Northwestern University Law School Professor Jide Okechuku Nzelibe. Professor Marah Stith McLeod from Notre Dame Law School also appreciated the experience. “We discovered that our beliefs diverged at times as to what is essential or valuable about tradition, culture, and citizenship, though there was also common ground,” she said, adding that the conference offered “an incredible chance to explore the relationship of the past to the present and to make predictions about the future.”

Planning is now underway for the Project’s third meeting, a conference on “Tradition in the Global Context,” to be held in Rome in collaboration with Università LUMSA and Villanova’s McCullen Center for Law, Religion, and Public Policy

For more information about the Tradition Project and other Center for Law and Religion activities, please contact the Center’s Director, Mark L. Movsesian, or its Associate Director, Marc O. DeGirolami.