Message from the Director
Professor Mark L. Movsesian
Welcome to the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s School of Law
These are exciting times for people who study law and religion. As two of the most important institutions in society, law and religion have always been linked. Law traditionally has looked to religion for fundamental concepts like justice and equality, and religion often has made law central to believers’ daily lives. For centuries, constitutional government has tried to accommodate religion in a system of ordered liberty, maintaining the separation of church and state while respecting the deepest commitments of many citizens.
While the nexus between law and religion is familiar to law students and lawyers, the relationship is raising new, and urgent, issues today. Despite the confident predictions of the last century, religion does not appear to be in terminal, global decline. On the contrary, religious commitments remain vitally important for millions of people everywhere. And, as a result of globalization, people of different faiths, and no faith, are encountering each other more and more frequently, not only in settings like intergovernmental organizations and human-rights tribunals, but in local communities as well –- in schools, city halls, courthouses and neighborhoods throughout the world.
Thus, it is now essential for law students and lawyers –- and citizens generally –- to understand more about the complicated ways in which law and religion relate to one another. To that end, we have established the Center for Law and Religion, with three broad goals:
- To examine the role of law in the relationship between religion and the state
- To explore the concept of law in different religious traditions
- To promote St. John’s Vincentian mission by encouraging an open dialogue on law and religion in the local, national and international communities
The Center sponsors academic programs in the United States and abroad. In the past few years, we've hosted international conferences in New York, Paris, and Rome, including a 2014 conference on international religious freedom at which Pope Francis delivered a keynote address. We've also sponsored events for the New York City community on the human rights of Mideast Christians and other current topics. We coordinate St. John’s law and religion curriculum, including a biannual Colloquium in Law and Religion that brings Supreme Court Justices and leading scholars to the law school to teach our students. We host the Law and Religion Forum, an award-winning web resource with commentary on scholarship, cases, and law and religion news from across the globe. Our faculty write and speak frequently at public events and academic workshops in the United States and Europe. Our new Global Legal Fellows program brings foreign graduate students to the Center, and the Tradition Project -- a multi-year research project sponsored by grants from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Achelis and Bodman Foundation, and the Notre Dame Program on Church, State & Society -- focuses on the role of tradition in law, politics, and culture.
This website offers information about the Center for Law and Religion's programs, curriculum, and faculty. The content is regularly updated, so please visit often. Feel free to contact us with any questions or suggestions. We'd love to hear from you and look forward to your participation.
Mark L. Movsesian