Thursday, November 15, 2007

An interesting take on pacifism and just war

I often troll for knowledge and provocation over at the social science research network (, and I usually find a fistful of both.

Most recently, I came across a piece written by David B. Kopel, titled "Evolving Christian Attitudes Towards Personal and National National Self-Defense." The full text is available for download here. The passage below is drawn from Kopel's abstract:

In the nineteenth and early in the twentieth centuries, the traditional Christian concepts of Just War and of the individual's duty to use force to defend himself and his family remained uncontroversial, as they had been for centuries. Disillusionment over World War One turned many Catholics and Protestants towards pacifism. Without necessarily adopting pacifism as a theory, they adopted pacifism as a practice. World War Two and the early Cold War ended the pacifist interlude for all but a few radical pacifists.

Beginning in the 1960s, much of the American Catholic leadership, like the leadership of mainline Protestant churches, turned sharply Left. Although churches did not repudiate their teachings on Just War, many Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders seemed unable to find any circumstances under which American or Western force actually was legitimate. Pacifism and anti-Americanism marched hand in hand. Today, pacifism now has greater respectability within orthodox Christianity than any time in the past 1700 years.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Is the hunger there?

Every year over on my personal blog I solicit suggestions on how we can make Baylor Law a better place. This year, the post yielded up 82 comments from students and former students.

One intriguing part of the process this year was that not one of those comments related to the religious mission of the school.

I don't think the issue is that the students don't care about that part of our mission, which I think is very important. Rather, I suspect that they simply don't see that as an area which urgently needs change one way or the other... or so I hope.

Monday, October 8, 2007

When Justices Go To Church

I was in Washington for the start of the Supreme Court's term this year, having written one of the briefs in the Kimbrough case. One item on the news the Sunday before the start of arguments was that six of the Justices attended the annual "Red Mass" at the Cathedral of St. Matthew, which is held every year to commemorate the opening of the court. With five Catholic Justices (who were joined at the service by Justice Breyer, who is Jewish), the service seems fitting.

Not all agree, though. In this article, Marci Hamilton at Findlaw argues that "there is good reason to question the judgment of the Justices who attended." In the article, Hamilton seems to link attendance at the service to the outcome in Gonzalez v. Carhart.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Moot Court Competition on Religious Freedom

In the world of moot court competitions, I can't imagine one more interesting than the National Religious Freedom Moot Court, to be held at George Washington Law School Feb. 22-23, 2008. For more information, check out the web site here.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

April in Boston-- The RALS Conference is Coming!

The dates have been set for the 2008 conference of Religiously Affiliated Schools. The 2008 conference will be hosted by Boston College Law School from Sunday evening, April 6 through midday Tuesday, April 8. The Conference presentations and panels will center on the relationship between religion and a lawyer's professional development; that is, how faith can influence our students' growth as lawyers and our facultys' development as scholars, teachers, and mentors. This two-day event should be of great interest both to faculty and to student service professionals.

I anticipate that this will be the best RALS conference yet.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Good Things Happenin' at Fordham Law

Among the institutions most actively investigating the connection between faith and legal practice is Fordham Law. Much of these efforts are through Fordham's Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer's Work, which runs programs in a number of areas, both focused on Catholic thought and more broadly addressing interfaith issues.

The Institute's Executive Director, Amy Uelmen, not only heads up these efforts, but publishes some very important work in the field. Her most recent article is Reconciling Evangelization and Dialogue Through Love of Neighbor, 52 Villanova L. Rev. 303 (2007), investigates the tension between evangelizing for a faith and maintaining a warm dialogue with other faiths, always a thorny issue.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Summer Missions

As I have made my way through the summer, it has occurred to me that I have never heard of a law school working on any sort of a summer mission. It seems like that would be a great project for faculty and students. Though it would have to be short due to the need of students to work in the summer, it might still be worthwhile. Has anyone every tried this? How did it work?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Another Good Read

One of the most stimulating articles I have read in a while is Ava Maria professor Lee Strang's The Role of the Christian Legal Scholar: The Call for a Modern Saint Benedict, 20 Notre Dame J. of Law, Ethics & Public Policy 59 (2006), which is available here via SSRN. Though it argues from a Christian perspective, many of its points would apply to scholars of other faiths, as well.

Strang argues that Christian legal scholars should have three distinct roles in the modern context-- building Christian law schools, rebuilding Christian law schools, and engaging in larger debates within the society.

Among other things, I find Strang's argument to be a personal challenge to make my own work more relevant and vigorous.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wow! Now That's a Conference!

Former Baylor Law Professor Bill Underwood, now the president of Mercer University, has been busy pulling together a blockbuster conference in January/February, 2008 celebrating the New Baptist Covenant. As announced here, the conference will feature (among others):

Charles Adams
Tony Campolo
Jimmy Carter
Bill Clinton
Marian Wright Edelman
Al Gore
Senator Lindsey Graham
Senator Chuck Grassley
Mike Huckabee
Bill Moyers
Julie Pennington-Russell
William Shaw

Notably, this conference brings together black and white Baptist groups as part of the New Baptist Covenant.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Liberty U. Law School in the Trib

This recent article in the Chicago Tribune about Liberty and other new Christian law schools (quoting Boston College's John Garvey) led to this reaction at the TalkLeft blog.

My own reaction to the controversy (at the Law School Innovation blog) can be found here.

Please feel free to weigh in at any of these sites!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Summer Reading Recommendation

Harry G. Hutchison at George Mason was kind enough to send me his article just out in the Catholic University Law Review, Shaming Kindergartners? Channelling Dred Scott? Freedom of Expression Rights in Public Schools. At the core of his writing is an important question: "Why has the public square become so secular and so suspicious of religious expression?" In particular, Prof. Hutchison looks at public schools in pursuing this question.

The full cite for the artice is Harry G. Hutchison, Shaming Kindergartners? Channelling Dred Scott? Freedom of Expression Rights in Public Schools, 56 Catholic U. L. Rev. 361 (2007). A downloadable version is also available at SSRN at this link.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gonzales v. Carhart

I hope and expect that the Supreme Court's decision on partial-birth abortion (Gonzales v. Carhart) will spur an additional round of serious scholarship on the issue. The press accounts seem pretty shallow, and both sides expect there to be much more litigation as a follow-up to this decision.

Are there any special law review issues focusing on this topic in the works?

Friday, April 6, 2007

A Challenging Review of Christian Legal Scholarship

Those of you involved in distinctly Christian legal scholarship will want to read David Skeel's working paper entitled "The Unbearable Lightness of Christian Legal Scholarship," available for download at SSRN.

The following is from Skeel's abstract of the paper:

When the ascendency of a new movement leaves a visible mark on American law, its footprints ordinarily can be traced through the pages of America's law reviews. But the influence of evangelicals and other theologically conservative Christians has been quite different. Surveying the law review literature in 1976, the year Newsweek proclaimed as the year of the evangelical, one would not find a single scholarly legal article outlining a Christian perspective on law or any particular legal issue. Even in the 1980s and 1990s, the literature remained remarkably thin. By the 1990s, distinctively Christian scholarship had finally begun to emerge in a few areas. But even today, the scope of Christian legal scholarship is shockingly narrow for such a nationally influential movement.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The weekend dilemma....

The crew at Boston College is hard at work planning the 2008 RALS conference, which BC will host next Spring. One issue being discussed is that we may avoid having the conference over a weekend, and rather have it Thursday-Friday or Monday-Tuesday. Two primary considerations are that we allow people the family time they count on over the weekend, and that Jewish participants be able to be home on the Sabbath.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New Schools and innovation

On another blog, I recently suggested an AALS panel on new law schools, in which folks from those new schools could talk about their identities and innovations. Because so many of the newer law schools have a religious identity, I hope that faith issues would be part of the discussion.

Is this a good idea?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Recommended Reading

The Connecticut Law Review has just published John Breen and Michael Scaperlanda's article, Never Get Out'a The Boat: Stenberg v. Carhart and the Future of American Law (39 Conn. L. Rev. 1). In it, the authors critique the Supreme Court's decision in the 2000 Stenberg case on partial-birth abortion in the context of the cases currently pending before the Court. Interestingly, they do so by using the film Apocalypse Now as a framing tool, lending more depth to their concluding question: "Thus, the Court and the people it serves must decide: Do we turn our backs on civilization and head further into the bush, embracing the illusion of freedom in the barbarous license of state-sanctioned killing?"

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Please forward me the news...

If you have an event upcoming, especially a conference, please email me at I hate it when I get one of those folded cards announcing a great conference... three days before it is scheduled to begin.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

What about our fellow travelers in secular institutions?

Yesterday I was in Washington for the arguments in Claiborne and Rita, two sentencing cases before the Supreme Court. Waiting for the session to begin, I fell into conversation with a professor from the University of Virginia Law School. He struck me as a scholar who integrates his faith with his thinking about the law, despite working within a secular institution (UVA).

It would seem that our group has something to offer such fellow-travelers, many of whom might welcome an open discussion of faith issues in a law school context.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Sacred and The Secular

One of the challenges of teaching law in a religiously-affiliated school is the inherent tension in providing faith-grounded professional training for a thoroughly secular profession. The courtroom contains a flag, but no cross, star, or crescent, and in nearly all contexts within the practice of law faith issues lie hidden.

Thus, we face a troubling challenge. On the one hand, we can err by conforming to the norm and de-contenting our curriculums of the very mention of faith. On the other, we may err by rooting our practices in an overt faith which will then be banned once our students enter the practice of law.

What we struggle to create is something between these two; competence as a professional within a vocation, consistent with and driven by faith. How do we get there?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

If you're in L.A., and free on Friday...

Dean Kevin Worthen of BYU tipped me off to this conference sponsored by the J. Rueben Clark Society on Friday and Saturday (February 16 & 17) at Pepperdine. It sounds like a great opportunity-- which apparently others have noticed, since 500 participants have already signed up.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Question Two: Should we have a formal membership?

Up to this point, the Religiously Affiliated Law Schools have put together a conference every other year, with little connected activity between those conferences. There is no formal membership list; those schools with a religious affiliation were simply invited to the conferences. At our last meeting, in 2006 at Baylor, we agreed to a more formal structure, including a standing executive committee.

As we move forward, should we formalize membership in the group?

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Question One: Our next meeting...

As has already been announced, our next meeting will be held in 2008 at Boston College. Are there topics or themes that people would like to explore at that time? Please enter your comments below.