The Pepperdine School of Law Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics, and the University’s Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies, teamed to host the third annual Religious Legal Theory conference, The Competing Claims of Law and Religion: Who Should Influence Whom?. The event was held on the Malibu campus February 23 through 25.
The three-day conference welcomed professors, alumni, students, members of the legal community, and more than 80 speakers from throughout the world, including South America, Asia, Europe, and Canada.
The conference addressed a host of sub-questions, all at the forefront of contemporary debates over the respective roles of law and religion. Topics included constitutional law, good citizenship, and matters of religious faith.
Among the notable speakers were Abdullahi Ahmed An-na ‘im, of Emory School of Law; Andrew Koppelman, Northwestern University School of Law; Ayelet Shachar, University of Toronto; Suzanne Last Stone, Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University; Steven D. Smith, University of San Diego School of Law; Dallas Willard, USC Department of Philosophy; and Richard Garnett, University of Notre Dame Law School.
Featured were four plenary sessions and multiple breakout sessions, each addressing a variety of topics.
“We had people approaching each conference topic from most major angles, conservative, liberal, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, secular, feminist, multicultural,” said Robert Cochran, Louis D Brandeis Professor of Law, and director of the Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics. “Many feel that we are in a time of transition as to the question of law and religion, and no one knows where we will wind up. In my view, the conference was a success because people from almost every perspective were listening to one another.”
In addition, the conference drew law professors from throughout the country.
“At other conferences, I look at the program and have trouble finding anything I really want to go to,” said Christopher Lund, assistant professor of law at Wayne State University Law School. “Here what troubled me was that there was nothing I felt I could miss.”
The conference was the largest religious theory conference Pepperdine has hosted, and included more than 65 additional speakers than in previous events hosted by the Nootbaar and Glazer Institutes.
The Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics was created to explore the nexus between these three disciplines, with particular emphasis on the intersection of faith and law. The purpose of the institute is to bring the redemptive capacity of religious faith and moral insight to law to find ways in which persons trained in law can serve “the least of these” throughout the world, and to explore how the practice of law might be a religious calling.
The Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies was established based on the understanding that as a Christian University, Pepperdine’s students are especially open to discussions of faith and identity, but are often unacquainted with Christianity’s ongoing relationship with Judaism. The Institute is designed to increase a majority-Christian academic community’s exposure to, discussion of, and awareness of Judaism, Jewish Studies, and Israel.