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RELATED PUBLICATION

September 1, 2012

Report of the Georgetown Symposium on What's So Special About Religious Freedom?

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Religious Freedom Project

Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs has received a $2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to support the interdisciplinary study of religious...

RELATED THEME

Historical Origins of Religious Freedom

An adequate understanding of the contemporary significance of religious freedom requires a grasp of its history and institutionalization over time. While the idea of religious freedom grows out of...

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PROJECT LEADERS

Thomas FarrThomas Farr

Thomas F. Farr is director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and a visiting associate...

Timothy ShahTimothy Shah

Timothy Samuel Shah is associate director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and...

ASSOCIATE SCHOLARS

Ilan AlonIlan Alon

Ilan Alon is the George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Chair of International Business and director of the China Center at Rollins College, as well as a...

José CasanovaJosé Casanova

José Casanova is one of the world's top scholars in the sociology of religion. He is a professor at the Department of Sociology at Georgetown...

Jean Bethke ElshtainJean Bethke Elshtain

Jean Bethke Elshtain was the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago from 1996 until her...

Anthony GillAnthony Gill

Tony Gill is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington, adjunct professor of sociology at the UW, and a...

William InbodenWilliam Inboden

William Inboden is associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and executive director of the Clements Center for History, Strategy, and...

Timur KuranTimur Kuran

Timur Kuran is professor of economics and political science, and Gorter Family Professor in Islamic Studies at Duke University. Kuran’s research...

David NovakDavid Novak

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...

John M. OwenJohn M. Owen

John M. Owen is the Ambassador Henry J. and Mrs. Marion R. Taylor Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Liberal...

Daniel PhilpottDaniel Philpott

Daniel Philpott, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for Peace Studies, specializes in the...

Ani SarkissianAni Sarkissian

Ani Sarkissian is an assistant professor of political science at Michigan State University, where she is a core faculty member of the Muslim...

Mona SiddiquiMona Siddiqui

Mona Siddiqui is professor of Islamic and inter-religious studies and assistant principal for religion and society at the University of Edinburgh....

Monica Duffy ToftMonica Duffy Toft

Monica Duffy Toft is professor of government and public policy at Oxford University's Blavatnik School of Government. She previously was associate...

Roger TriggRoger Trigg

Roger Trigg, of St Cross College, Oxford, is senior research fellow in the Ian Ramsey Centre, University of Oxford, and a member of Oxford's...

Robert WoodberryRobert Woodberry

Robert Woodberry is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Project on Religion and Economic Change (PREC) at the...

PROJECT STAFF

Kyle Vander MeulenKyle Vander Meulen

Kyle Vander Meulen joined the Berkley Center in January 2011. Before coming to the center, he completed his master's studies in Divinity at the...

Claudia WinklerClaudia Winkler

Claudia Winkler joined the Berkley Center in February 2014. Before joining the center, Claudia completed her master's degree in German at...
Constitution

November 17, 2011

What's So Special About Religious Freedom?

Religious freedom has been called America’s “first freedom.” But does it warrant such a special status? What, if anything, distinguishes religious freedom from other protected rights like the freedom of speech or assembly? Is religious freedom a right that stands on its own, or is it a subset of a broader freedom of conscience?

How such questions are answered carries profound consequences for the treatment of religion in American public life and in American foreign policy. On Thursday, November 17, 2011, the Religious Freedom Project hosted a keynote debate at Georgetown University on the question of the uniqueness of religious freedom. Debating this critical issue were Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman and Stanford Law Professor Michael McConnell.

Coinciding with the debate, the event featured two related panels to examine the meaning and reach of religious freedom. The morning panel explored the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and secular influences on religious freedom in the West. The afternoon panel addressed the universality of religious freedom and its compatibility with non-Western cultures.
An RFP publication on the symposium, including a full transcript of the panel discussions, can be found here.

Schedule
10:30am - 12:00pm Panel 1: The Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Secular Sources of Religious Freedom in the West
Panel Discussion with Brad Gregory, David Little, David Novak, and Dorinda Outram

12:15pm - 1:45pm Keynote Debate: Is Religious Freedom an Independent or Derivative Human Right?
Noah Feldman and Michael McConnell

2:00pm - 3:30pm Panel 2: The Universality of Religious Freedom and its Compatibility with Non-Western Cultures
Panel Discussion with Peter Danchin, John Finnis, and Mona Siddiqui

Featuring

Noah Feldman

Noah Feldman

Noah Feldman is Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He specializes in constitutional studies, with an emphasis on the relationship between law and religion, constitutional design, and the history of legal theory. Feldman is the author of three books: Divided By God: America’s Church-State Problem and What We Should Do About It (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005); What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building (Princeton University Press, 2004); and After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003). Feldman has also been on faculty at the New York University School of Law. In 2003, he served as a senior constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and advised members of the Iraqi Governing Council on the drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law. He is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. Feldman holds degrees from Harvard University, Oxford and Yale Law School.

Michael McConnell

Michael McConnell

Michael McConnell is Richard and Frances Mallery Professor of Law at Stanford University Law School. Educated at Michigan State University (BA '76) and the University of Chicago Law School (JD '79), he is an accomplished litigator, judge and professor of law. He has argued a dozen cases before the US Supreme Court, served as a federal appellate judge for the Tenth Circuit and taught law at the University of Utah, the University of Chicago, Harvard and Stanford. Now retired from the bench, he is a professor at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center. His particular areas of interest and expertise in Constitutional law include freedom of speech and religion, the relationship between individuals and government, and originalism.

Participants

Peter Danchin

Peter Danchin

Peter Danchin is Associate Professor of Law as well as the Director of the International and Comparative Law Program at the University of Maryland School of Law. From 2000-06 he served as the director of the human rights program at the Columbia...
John Finnis

John Finnis

John M. Finnis is Biolchini Family Professor of Law at Notre Dame University and Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at Oxford University. Finnis has worked in the realms of moral, political, and legal theory and is also a noted scholar of...
Brad Gregory

Brad Gregory

Brad S. Gregory is the Dorothy G. Griffin Associate Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Notre Dame. Prior to his work at Notre Dame, Gregory was Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University and a Junior Fellow...
David Little

David Little

David Little, a Research Fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center, is a leading authority on the history of religious freedom, ethics and human rights, and religion and conflict resolution. Little retired in 2009 as T.J. Dermot Dunphy...
David Novak

David Novak

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...
Dorinda Outram

Dorinda Outram

Dorinda Outram is Clark Professor of History at the University of Rochester. She specializes in European history from 1648-1848, with particular emphasis on the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, history of the body, history of science and...
Mona Siddiqui

Mona Siddiqui

Mona Siddiqui is professor of Islamic and inter-religious studies and assistant principal for religion and society at the University of Edinburgh. She researches classical Islamic law, contemporary law and ethics, and Christian-Muslim relations....