January 20, 2010
Rabbi David Novak's 'In Defense of Religious Liberty'
William James once quipped that "in this age of toleration,no one will ever try actively to interfere with our religious faith, provided we enjoy it quietly with our friends and do not make a public nuisance of it." Unfortunately--at least for the privatizers and the secularists--religion is a very public matter for a simple reason: most religions make definitive moral claims that implicate the common good. So says Rabbi David Novak in his new book about religious liberty, why it is endangered, and why it should be protected. It is not, however, a book about attacks on religious freedom in Saudi Arabia or China. It is about liberal democracies such as the United States and Canada, where religious actors and institutions are increasingly vulnerable because of their public dissent to emerging laws and norms on issues like same-sex marriage. Novak, a Professor of Jewish Studies and Philosophy at the University of Toronto, discussed the perils and the remedies - including the need to ground democratic religious liberty once again (as did America's founders) in divine law.
To discuss this important new book, the Berkley Center featured a vigorous discussion between Novak, William Galston
of the Brookings Institution, and George Weigel
of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The event was moderated by the Berkley Center's Thomas Farr.
David Novak holds the J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies as Professor of the Study of Religion and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto since 1997. He is a member of The Centre for Ethics, a part of the Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University College. From 1997 to 2002 he also was Director of the Jewish Studies Programme. In 2006 he received the Dean's Award for Excellence. From 1989 to 1997 he was the Edgar M. Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies at the University of Virginia. Previously he taught at Oklahoma City University, Old Dominion University, the New School for Social Research, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Baruch College of the City University of New York. From 1966 to 1969 he was Jewish Chaplain to St. Elizabeth's Hospital, National Institute of Mental Health, in Washington, D.C. From 1966 to 1989 he served as a pulpit rabbi in several communities in the United States.
William A. Galston holds the Ezra Zilkha Chair in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, where he serves as a Senior Fellow. He is also College Park Professor at the University of Maryland. Prior to January 2006 he was Saul Stern...
George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Catholic theologian and a leading public intellectual. Weigel is the author of Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II, which has been translated...