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. 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 and others will challenge Shaffer’s notion that religious critiques of law are of value. Speakers from a wide variety of religious traditions will address the law from their traditions. Some will address the history of religious influence on law. Others will address what religious might say to subjects that do not ordinarily come in for religious critique—property, contracts, torts, etc.
Pepperdine is a top-ranked university deeply committed to its Christian foundation and the integration of faith, academics, and values. At Pepperdine School of Law, we guide graduates toward fulfilling careers through rigorous academics and individualized pathways to success.
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