Religious Legal Theory: The State of the Field – Newark, NJ

Conference Announcement and Call for Papers — “Religious Legal Theory: The State of the Field,” Seton Hall University School of Law, Newark, NJ, Nov. 12-13, 2009

Religious legal theory—the study of religiously-informed legal theory and its contributions—has become an area of law in which scholars of law and other disciplines have recently shown great interest. The call for papers deadline is May 15, 2009.

In his address at the 2008 annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, AALS President John Garvey emphasized the importance of religious perspectives on law. Major university presses have published volumes on the intersection of faith, legal theory and theology (“Faith and Law: How Religious Traditions from Calvinism to Islam View American Law” (Cochran, ed. NYU Press 2007); “The Teachings of Modern Christianity on Law, Politics and Human Nature” (Witte and Alexander, eds. Columbia University Press 2006); “Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought” (McConnell, Cochran & Carmella, eds. Yale University Press 2001)). Established legal scholars have published work in law reviews offering explicitly religious perspectives. The Journal of Law and Religion publishes symposia on topics such as “Emerging Applications of Jewish Law in American Legal Scholarship,” and The Journal of Catholic Social Thought offers symposia on a variety of topics, both global and domestic. Numerous blogs and other non-traditional publishing venues are devoted to serious reflection on religious conceptions of law and public good.

We invite interested scholars to submit abstracts of proposed papers. Scheduled speakers include Samuel Levine (Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law), David Skeel (S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law, University of Pennsylvania School of Law), Amy Uelmen (Director, Institute on Religion, Law and Lawyer’s Work, Fordham Law School), and Robert Vischer (Associate Professor, University of St. Thomas School of Law).

The symposium will assess the “state of the field” of religious legal theory, consolidating the advances and charting new directions for religious perspectives on law and public policy. We welcome contributions from persons of various religious perspectives and particularly hope to foster ecumenical dialogue across the Christian, Jewish, Muslim as well as Eastern religious traditions. In particular, we hope to gather law professors, theologians, political scientists, sociologists, and scholars in other disciplines whose papers would discuss the following areas or related themes:

1) Overview of current religious legal theory: themes, publication venues, influence.

2) Challenges to religious legal theory: responses to and dialogue with pragmatism, positivism, critical legal studies, and other schools of thought within the academy.

3) Contributions and implications of religious legal theory: examples of religious concepts that foster renewed understandings of law and of the relationship between doctrinal reform in religion and law.

4) Directions for religious legal theory: influencing the academy, policymakers, the bench and bar.

Presentations of papers will be 20 minutes long to allow time for discussion.

Abstracts for proposed papers, and inquiries, should be sent to Professor David Opderbeck ( no later than May 15. Abstracts should be no longer than 500 words. Presenters will be notified by June 30. For presenters, group rates at a local hotel will be available, conference meals will be provided, and limited funding may be available for transportation.

The conference is being planned by Professor Opderbeck, Professor Angela Carmella and Professor John Coverdale of Seton Hall University School of Law.

Those interested in the topic but not presenting papers are encouraged to attend the conference. Registration fees will be set at a time closer to the conference date.