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CSLR looks to the future with Allard as associate director
By Midge Sweet | Emory Law | Aug 16, 2013 12:08:00 AM

Silas W. Allard joins the Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR) as Associate Director and Harold J. Berman Senior Fellow in Law and Religion as CSLR seeks to broaden its global reach by engaging religious traditions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism, and Indigenous Religions, while continuing to pursue groundbreaking scholarship around the Abrahamic religions.

“We are delighted to have a scholar of Silas’ academic depth and human insight bring his energy to our work,” says John Witte, Jr., Director of CSLR and Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law and Alonzo L. McDonald Family Foundation Distinguished Professor. “With his leadership the Center will continue to explore new territory, change and grow.”

As a joint law and theology degree student at Emory, Allard graduated at the top of his class, served as editor-in-chief of the Emory International Law Review, and received the university’s highest student honor, the Marion Luther Brittain award, for his leadership. He also co-convened a major international conference to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that featured Nobel Laureates Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human rights activist, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.  

The Center “makes the academic relevant to everyday lives, and in the face of a very diverse society governed by a secular state, opens us to considering how our individual and community norms can inform our secular national policy,” observes Allard. “These are questions that can’t be bifurcated between a religious and a secular conversation.”

Allard comes to CSLR following a two-year clerkship at the Court of International Trade, a United States district court with specialized jurisdiction over import transactions, including customs and trade law. His work in the court provided “the opportunity to immerse daily in the practice of law and the workings of the judiciary, so that I have a deeper understanding of how the law works and how it is experienced in people’s lives.”

His core focus remains “the intersection of law and religion—the state and law and religion, and how the law impacts people's lives on a daily basis, and how religion applies to people on a daily basis.”

Allard also brings an interest in migration to his work in law and religion. In academic circles there is a perception that current increases in migration are driving conversation about religion, religious pluralism and conflicts between religions, and religions and secularism. One aspect of this movement that is important to Allard “is the perspective that religions take on migration and migrants: How should we treat the migrants who are coming into our country and what can we learn from our religious traditions regarding welcome and hospitality?”

From an academic and theoretical perspective, his interest in migration correlates to his interest in pluralism, which he credits to his study under Abdullahi An-Na’im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory. “We live in a diverse and diversifying world. It is exceedingly rare to have a place that is not a location of multiple religions and therefore a site of religious contestation. Increasingly there is recognition that multiplicity has become a global feature of religion and states.

“Thus, you might say we live in a diverse world and you may take the stance that this diversity is pluralism. There is also the perspective that pluralism is a way of approaching the world that responds to the reality of diversity, and then the critical question becomes how we live into the reality and promise of diversity, both in our legal and religious cultures.”

In his role as associate director Allard will have the chance to lead discussions on these and other timely topics.

“The Center responds to a vital reality of our national social life, true in the United States and internationally, about conversations that are very difficult to have in the halls of government, partly because of the way our Constitution is written (which is good), but partly because they are divisive.“We make an effort to sit and to have conversations about this in long form, and to meaningfully engage diverse viewpoints on these issues. To my mind this is one of the best roles CSLR performs.

“This is what drives the work of the Center–it happens in the conferences and lectures, and in the training and education that we expose our students to, and now with the Journal of Law and Religion and other publications that we shepherd on the subject of law and religion. It is a defining role and should guide what we do.”