f/k/a . . . the archives

December 28, 2004

why the unholy silence on faith-based law schools?

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:15 pm

I’ve been surprised that so little has been written on faith-biased legal education     torah

by weblawgers who might be apprehensive about the idea.  We seem to hear only from

fans of the notion.  While I am not like Chris Newman’s friend, who would refuse

accreditation for such schools, I’m very wary about claims that religion-focused law

schools will produce lawyers who are more moral and ethical, or that proper legal

interpretation should look to the Bible first rather than our Constitutions.

 

My misgivings can be found in the earlier postreligious law schools offer no salvation,”

which was quoted at length yesterday (Dec. 27, 2004) — not by a blawger — but by

Austin Cline, at his Agnosticism/Atheism Blog. [talk about preaching to the choir]

 

Non-lawyer Cline wrote:


“Religion doesn’t make one more moral, so a religion-based legal education

couldn’t be expected to turn out more moral lawyers. It’s also doubtful that

religious traditions necessarily have a great deal to offer when it comes to

a legal education today. In fact, if a religion-based education inspires one

to try to apply religious texts to legal cases rather than just the law, it could

cause more problems. Aren’t religious conservatives the ones who complain

about judicial activism? “

Cline previously posted Falwell Opening Law School and Onward Christian Lawyers 

at his A/ABlog. 

 

Why are weblawggers so shy about this topic?  One told me he didn’t want to take on

the religious right in public.  I hope others will overcome such fears and openly discuss

a topic that may become quite important for the future of our profession and legal system.

As usual, thoughtful discussion pro, con or in between would be welcome. (and, as you

can see, irreverence need not be shunned)

 

 

night storm–
I rely on my little
plague god


 





with our gods out of town
they raise a ruckus…
crows

 










even the outhouse
has a guardian god…
plum blossoms

 

commandments  Kobayashi Issa translated by David G. Lanoue 

8 Comments

  1. David,

    I am responding to this post and your earlier post.

    In the earlier post you give approval to the following statement by Prof. Althouse. “What’s needed are law schools that expose law students to the full range of professional
    debate.”

    What about the Christian viewpoint in this “full range of professional debate?” Are any law students being exposed to the Christian side of the debate? If not, how should law schools make sure students are?

    (As an aside, so you can see where I am coming from, here is a bit about me and my worldview. I am a Christian and my morality and my desire to minister to the poor comes from my faith. I respect all ethical folks, no matter where their ethics stem from. I also try to learn from all ethical folks whether they be believers or not. With that said, I think all that is good, right and just ultimately stems from God and God’s natural law).

    Comment by JR — December 28, 2004 @ 8:32 pm

  2. David,

    I am responding to this post and your earlier post.

    In the earlier post you give approval to the following statement by Prof. Althouse. “What’s needed are law schools that expose law students to the full range of professional
    debate.”

    What about the Christian viewpoint in this “full range of professional debate?” Are any law students being exposed to the Christian side of the debate? If not, how should law schools make sure students are?

    (As an aside, so you can see where I am coming from, here is a bit about me and my worldview. I am a Christian and my morality and my desire to minister to the poor comes from my faith. I respect all ethical folks, no matter where their ethics stem from. I also try to learn from all ethical folks whether they be believers or not. With that said, I think all that is good, right and just ultimately stems from God and God’s natural law).

    Comment by JR — December 28, 2004 @ 8:32 pm

  3. Thanks for asking an important question, JR, and for sharing you personal perspective.  
    Because I am not involved in legal education and have not been for a very long time, I would like to hear from those who are (professors, administrators, current and recent students).  I wish you would direct your question “What about the Christian viewpoint in this ‘full range of professional debate?’”  to Prof. Althouse and others in “mainstream law schools.”  I have no personal or weblog relationship with Prof. Althouse, but I will also write to her posing your question, and write to others who I know have a strong interest in legal curriculum.
    Please let me make a couple of observations, however.  To the extent that law schools engage in discussions and pedagogy related to what the law and our legal system “should” be [e.g., varying approaches to constitutional interpretation; normative standards for achieving "justice" or "fairness" in statutory and regulatory bodies of law, and their enforcement; standards for assessing "reform" proposals], there should be a very wide-open discussion of the various perspectives that exist in our society.  In that context, the perspective of the evangelical or fundamentalist Christian movement is far too important in our body politic for me to believe it is totally ignored at any law school that seeks to achieve excellence and prepare its lawyers for careers in the 21st Century.
    I’m not at all sure what you think the “Christian” perspective on our legal system, jurisprudence and pedagogy might be.  [I use quotes, because I do not know how you define the term, but fear you might be appropriating an adjective that subsumes many different points of view, and applying it to but one of those perspectives, belief systems, and political agendas.]  I do not believe that any one group of Americans has all the answers as to what laws are “right,” or “just” or in accord with “natural law.”  Certainly, the Liberals do not; nor do the Conservatives, the Moderates, the Federalists, or the Libertarians, to name a few.  I am certain that our Founding Fathers did not wish to have a nation in which one set of religious beliefs somehow set the blueprint, framework and recipe for the laws of our secular nation.  
    Your values are a valuable part of the discussion and persuasion that goes into making and interpreting law.  But, I believe it is inappropriate to suggest that our judges and legislators, and our populace, must look to the Bible rather than the Constitution as our basic legal foundation (much less that one religious sect has the power to say what the Bible means).  A law school that adopted such an approach might be located in America, but it would not be teaching American law.   

    Comment by David Giacalone — December 28, 2004 @ 10:53 pm

  4. Thanks for asking an important question, JR, and for sharing you personal perspective.  
    Because I am not involved in legal education and have not been for a very long time, I would like to hear from those who are (professors, administrators, current and recent students).  I wish you would direct your question “What about the Christian viewpoint in this ‘full range of professional debate?’”  to Prof. Althouse and others in “mainstream law schools.”  I have no personal or weblog relationship with Prof. Althouse, but I will also write to her posing your question, and write to others who I know have a strong interest in legal curriculum.
    Please let me make a couple of observations, however.  To the extent that law schools engage in discussions and pedagogy related to what the law and our legal system “should” be [e.g., varying approaches to constitutional interpretation; normative standards for achieving "justice" or "fairness" in statutory and regulatory bodies of law, and their enforcement; standards for assessing "reform" proposals], there should be a very wide-open discussion of the various perspectives that exist in our society.  In that context, the perspective of the evangelical or fundamentalist Christian movement is far too important in our body politic for me to believe it is totally ignored at any law school that seeks to achieve excellence and prepare its lawyers for careers in the 21st Century.
    I’m not at all sure what you think the “Christian” perspective on our legal system, jurisprudence and pedagogy might be.  [I use quotes, because I do not know how you define the term, but fear you might be appropriating an adjective that subsumes many different points of view, and applying it to but one of those perspectives, belief systems, and political agendas.]  I do not believe that any one group of Americans has all the answers as to what laws are “right,” or “just” or in accord with “natural law.”  Certainly, the Liberals do not; nor do the Conservatives, the Moderates, the Federalists, or the Libertarians, to name a few.  I am certain that our Founding Fathers did not wish to have a nation in which one set of religious beliefs somehow set the blueprint, framework and recipe for the laws of our secular nation.  
    Your values are a valuable part of the discussion and persuasion that goes into making and interpreting law.  But, I believe it is inappropriate to suggest that our judges and legislators, and our populace, must look to the Bible rather than the Constitution as our basic legal foundation (much less that one religious sect has the power to say what the Bible means).  A law school that adopted such an approach might be located in America, but it would not be teaching American law.   

    Comment by David Giacalone — December 28, 2004 @ 10:53 pm

  5. “I’m not at all sure what you think the “Christian” perspective on our legal system, jurisprudence and pedagogy might be. [I use quotes, because I do not know how you define the term, but fear you might be appropriating an adjective that subsumes many different points of view, and applying it to but one of those perspectives, belief systems, and political agendas.]”

    I am mainly referring to the Protestant evangelical perspective, but even that is a widely diverse group.

    “I do not believe that any one group of Americans has all the answers as to what laws are ‘right,’ or ‘just’ or in accord with ‘natural law.’”

    Neither do I. In this respect, I am different than some Protestant evangelicals you might encounter. The natural law is the standard we all try to meet.

    “I believe it is inappropriate to suggest that our judges and legislators, and our populace, must look to the Bible rather than the Constitution as our basic legal foundation (much less that one religious sect has the power to say what the Bible means).”

    I agree.

    Comment by JR — December 29, 2004 @ 12:45 am

  6. “I’m not at all sure what you think the “Christian” perspective on our legal system, jurisprudence and pedagogy might be. [I use quotes, because I do not know how you define the term, but fear you might be appropriating an adjective that subsumes many different points of view, and applying it to but one of those perspectives, belief systems, and political agendas.]”

    I am mainly referring to the Protestant evangelical perspective, but even that is a widely diverse group.

    “I do not believe that any one group of Americans has all the answers as to what laws are ‘right,’ or ‘just’ or in accord with ‘natural law.’”

    Neither do I. In this respect, I am different than some Protestant evangelicals you might encounter. The natural law is the standard we all try to meet.

    “I believe it is inappropriate to suggest that our judges and legislators, and our populace, must look to the Bible rather than the Constitution as our basic legal foundation (much less that one religious sect has the power to say what the Bible means).”

    I agree.

    Comment by JR — December 29, 2004 @ 12:45 am

  7. Also, my views are usually consistent with those of my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.

    Comment by JR — December 29, 2004 @ 12:47 am

  8. Also, my views are usually consistent with those of my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.

    Comment by JR — December 29, 2004 @ 12:47 am

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