Is Religious Freedom Under Threat?

McDonald Centre Annual Conference (Tenth Anniversary)

On 24-25 May 2018 the McDonald Centre held its Tenth Anniversary conference, “Is Religious Liberty under Threat? A Trans-Atlantic Dialogue”. Conceived with Professor John Witte, organized with the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, generously funded by the McDonald Agape Foundation, and staged at Christ Church, Oxford, the conference drew together scholars from Oxford, Warwick, Bristol, Cardiff, Emory, Harvard, Notre Dame and Baylor Universities. It also featured Mary Ann Glendon, former US Ambassador to the Holy See, and Sir Mark Hedley, former Justice of the High Court, as McDonald Distinguished Scholar Lecturers.

A report of the conference proceedings by Prof. Witte will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal.  A draft of this report is available to read here by kind permission of the journal’s editors.   

The speakers were:

Francis Beckwith: Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, and Associate Director of Graduate Studies, at Baylor University; author of Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (2015) and Law, Darwinism, and Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design (2013).

Nigel Biggar: Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, and Director of the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life, at the University of Oxford; co-editor (with Linda Hogan), Religious Voices in Public Places (2009) and author of Behaving in Public (2011)

Kathleen Brady: Fellow, Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University; author of The Distinctiveness of Religion in American Law: Rethinking Religion Clause Jurisprudence (2015)

Norman Doe: Professor of Law, and Director of the Centre for Law and Religion, at Cardiff University, where he established the LLM in Canon Law; author of Law and Religion in Europe (2011), and co-author of Religion and Law in the United Kingdom (2011).

Richard Garnett: Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor and Concurrent Professor of Political Science, at the University of Notre Dame; currently writing Two There Are: Understanding the Separation of Church and State.

Mary Ann Glendon: Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and former US Ambassador to the Holy See; author of Rights Talk (1991) and co-author of Comparative Legal Traditions: Text, Materials, and Cases on Western Law (2007).

Sir Mark Hedley: former Justice of the High Court, Visiting Professor in Law at Liverpool Hope University, and Deputy Lieutenant of Liverpool.

Mark Hill, QC: Barrister in Chambers at Francis Taylor Building, London, Honorary Professor at the Centre for Law and Religion, Cardiff University, and Ecumenical fellow in Canon Law at the Venerable English College in Rome; author of Ecclesiastical Law (2018).

Cécile Laborde, FBA: Nuffield Professor of Political Theory at the University of Oxford, and founding director of the Religion and Political Theory Centre at University College London; author of Liberalism’s Religion (2017).   

Julian Rivers: Professor of Jurisprudence at Bristol University; editor-in-chief of the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion; author of “National Report England: Religious Law and Religious Courts as a Challenge to the State”, in Uwe Kischel et al. (eds), Religious Law and Religious Courts as a Challenge to the State: Religious Pluralism in Comparative Perspective (2017).

Roger Trigg: Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick, and Founding President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion; author of Equality, Freedom, and Religion (2012) and Religion in Public Life: Must Faith be Privatized? (2007).

John Witte: Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law, McDonald Distinguished Professor, and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, at Emory University; editor of the Cambridge Law & Christianity Series and co-editor of the Journal of Law and Religion; co-author of No Establishment of Religion: America’s Original Contribution to Religious Liberty (2012) and author of God’s Joust, God’s Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition (2006).

Alonzo McDonald, Chairman of the McDonald Agape Foundation, welcomed participants to the conference via videolink and delivered a tribute to the McDonald Centre’s work over the last decade.  The video recording is available to view here(link is external).

Videos of the special lectures and plenary sessions are now available for viewing: 

1.     McDonald Distinguished Scholar Lecture: “Is Religious Freedom under Threat?” by Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard (link(link is external))

2.     Session I — Historical Hinterlands: Religious Freedom in the United Kingdom and the United States (link(link is external))

3.     Session II — Freedom of Religion or Conscience? (link(link is external))

4.     Session III— Religious Freedom versus Equality Law? (link(link is external))

5.     Session IV — Religious Establishment: Can it be Liberal Enough? (link(link is external))

6.     Session V — Religious Freedom and the Churches in the 21st Century (link(link is external))

7.     McDonald Distinguished Scholar Lecture: “Reflections on Religious Liberty from the Judicial Bench” by Sir Mark Hedley, former Justice of the High Court, and Visiting Professor in Law at Liverpool Hope University (link(link is external))

8.     Closing Panel Discussion (link(link is external))

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