Annual Conference | Nootbaar Institute | School of Law | Pepperdine University

Annual Conference

Every year, the Nootbaar Institute hosts a conference on an important and thought provoking topic. Addressing a wide range of issues such as religious freedom, human rights, and diversity, the Institute seeks to bring top scholars, lawyers, students, and the community together to ultimately have a positive impact on society.


Religious Critiques of Law

March 9-10, 2017
Pepperdine University School of Law
Malibu, California

We hope you will join us for the conference.

Attendees, Download Your Conference Materials Here

"Religious Critiques of Law" Conference

Call for Proposals


We hope you will join us for the conference discussed below. Mark your calendar, submit a proposal, and forward this message to blogs, list serves, and people who might be interested. Speakers already confirmed include the following:

John Witte (Emory)
Sanford V. Levinson (Texas)
Jihad Turk (Claremont School of Theology)
Linda R. Meyer (Quinnipiac)
Richard Helmhotz (Chicago)
Michael Broyde (Emory)
Steve Smith (San Diego)
Robert K. Vischer (St. Thomas)
Perry Dane (Rutgers Camden)
Mark Modak-Truran (Mississippi College)
John Nagle (Notre Dame)
Barbara Armacost (Virginia)
Michael Moreland (Villanova)
Nathan B. Oman (William & Mary)
David Opderbeck (Seton Hall)
Jeffrey Pojanowski (Notre Dame)
Sarah M.R. Cravens (Akron)
Samuel Levine (Touro)
Ellen Pryor (UNT Dallas)
David VanDrunen (Westminster Seminary, CA)
Mark Aaron Goldfeder (Emory)

In his book, American Lawyers and Their Communities, Tom Shaffer envisions a downtown street. On one side of the street is a house of worship; on the other is a courthouse. According to Shaffer, law schools train lawyers to look at the religious congregation from the courthouse—that is to analyze the problems the religious congregation creates for the law. Shaffer contends that too often, law schools ignore the possibility that there might be a view of the courthouse from the house of worship.

Prophetic witness is discounted in law teaching. Our part of the academy, more than any other, has systematically discouraged and disapproved of invoking the religious tradition as important or even interesting. It ignores the community of the faithful so resolutely that even its students who have come to law school from the community of the faithful learn to look at the [religious congregation] from the courthouse, rather than at the courthouse from [religious congregation].

Shaffer encourages lawyers to "walk across the street" and look at the courthouse from their religious congregation.

At this conference, some speakers will support Shaffer's notion that religious critiques of law are of important value to our legal discourse. Others will challenge that notion. It is our hope that the conference will draw speakers from a wide variety of religious traditions who will address the law from their tradition. We welcome speakers who might address the history of religious influence on law. Any subject area of law is fair game, but we want to encourage speakers to address subjects that do not ordinarily come in for religious critique—property, contracts, torts, etc. We hope some speakers will address the legal profession and legal education from religious perspectives. We hope that you can join us.

As usual, we are trying to do a national conference on a local budget. We will not be able to provide travel expenses. Our hope is that speakers' home institutions will be able to provide their expenses.

If you would like to present a paper or organize a panel that fits within this broad range of themes, please submit your proposal by SEPTEMBER 30, 2016 via email to Proposals should be one page maximum and should include a short abstract and a 40-word max. bio.


If you have questions about the substance of the conference, contact Bob Cochran or Michael Helfand

For questions about the details of the conference, contact Jenna DeWalt or (310) 506-6978.

The conference will be co-sponsored by Pepperdine's Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics, the Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies, and the Center for Faith and Learning



All our best,

Bob Cochran & Michael Helfand

Robert F. Cochran, Jr.
Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law and
Director, Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar
Institute on Law, Religion, and Ethics
Michael A. Helfand
Associate Professor of Law and
Associate Director, Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies


Need a hotel?

Make sure you get a special Pepperdine rate!

We have three hotel options in the area that will offer you a discounted rate if you mention you are attending Pepperdine's Nootbaar Conference. Pepperdine's Graziadio Executive Center is the hotel located on Pepperdine's campus with great views of the pacific. Malibu Country Inn  is located 10 minutes north of Pepperdine off of PCH, it's near a great beach and great food. Hilton Garden Inn in Calabasas has the best rate to offer, it's about 20 minutes from Pepperdine through Malibu Canyon.


We will run shuttles for the conference between Pepperdine and the three hotels mentioned above. Find the shuttle schedule here.