Join the Conversation
The Nootbaar Institute regularly 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.
2017 Conference: "Religious Critiques of the Law"
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.
For questions about the details of the conference, contact Jenna DeWalt email@example.com or (310) 506-6978.
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