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Is Religious Freedom Under Threat? Trans-Atlantic Perspectives

Wednesday, 23 May 2018 - 5:00pm to Friday, 25 May 2018 - 2:00pm

While every major international declaration of human rights and most national constitutions enshrine religious freedom, profound shifts in social and cultural conceptions of equality and non-discrimination now risk undermining these basic principles, constraining hard-won historic commitments in Britain and the United States to sustaining the liberal social order that human rights were intended to guarantee.  

To mark the tenth anniversary of its founding in 2008, the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics & Public Life, in collaboration with Emory University's Center for the Study of Law and Religion, is assembling a distinguished group of international scholars and practitioners to address the contentious question of religious freedom in trans-Atlantic perspective at a conference to be held in the Sir Michael Dummett Lecture Theatre at Christ Church, Oxford, from Wednesday evening to Friday noon, 23-25 May 2018.  

The conference will consider a wide array of topics, including the historical backdrop to contemporary debates, the distinction between religious and conscientious belief, perceived tensions between freedom of religion and rights to equal treatment, and the contested place of religious establishment. 

The conference will open with the McDonald Distinguished Scholar Lecture by Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and former United States Ambassador to the Holy See.  Professor Glendon will deliver her lecture in the Sir Michael Dummett Lecture Theatre at Christ Church at 5pm on Wednesday 23 May. The keynote address will be followed by a reception. 

A second McDonald Distinguished Scholar Lecture will be delivered by Sir Mark Hedley, DL, a former Justice of the High Court and Visiting Professor of Law at Liverpool Hope University.  He will deliver his lecture in the Sir Michael Dummett Lecture Theatre at Christ Church at 5:30pm on Thursday 24 May.  

The Centre is delighted to announce that speakers at the conference will also include:

  • Francis Beckwith, Baylor University
  • Nigel Biggar, University of Oxford
  • Kathleen Brady, Emory University
  • Norman Doe, Cardiff University
  • Richard Garnett, University of Notre Dame
  • Mark Hill, QC, Inner Temple
  • Cécile Laborde, University of Oxford 
  • Julian Rivers, Bristol University
  • Roger Trigg, University of Warwick
  • John Witte, Emory University

These speakers will appear in paired sessions from 9.30am to 5.30pm on Thursday, 24 May and from 9.30am to 1pm on Friday, 25 May. The conference will conclude with a final panel discussion among all the speakers, including Professor Glendon and Sir Mark Hedley.

The McDonald Distinguished Scholars Lectures are be open to the public and free of charge.  To register and pay for the conference, which includes coverage for meals, breaks, and materials, please click here