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Journal of Law and Religion Celebrates 40th Anniversary
By Rachael Orbeta | Emory Law | Jun 30, 2023 7:06:00 AM

On April 28th, the Center for the Study of Law and Religion hosted a special webinar to celebrate “40 Years of the Journal of Law and Religion.” Silas Allard, Managing Editor of the Journal of Law and Religion and Harold J. Berman Fellow in Law and Religion at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, welcomed supporters and friends to engage with several presentations on JLR’s long history. Allard has been the managing editor for the Journal of Law and Religion for the past 10 years and oversaw the journal’s move from Hamline University School of Law to Emory in 2013. Allard began the event by echoing the mission and mandate of JLR since its first issue in 1983. As the Journal of Law and Religion’s inaugural editors proudly proclaimed in their first issue: “in undertaking this venture, we seek to provide a forum a place to hear and be heard for all those interested in exploring how law and religion are related.” The journal has succeeded in offering the latest research in the field of law and religion for the past four decades. 

After his opening remarks, Allard handed over the presentation to Tom Porter, a trial lawyer and mediator, who was a founding member of the board of JLR in 1982 and was chair from 1989 to 2001. Porter gave the audience an in-depth overview of the journal’s beginnings and attempts to get off the ground. He highlighted key moments in the journal’s history such as its founding in 1982, its original editorial board, and how the journal ran its first issue in the summer of 1983, coedited by Wilson Yates and Michael Scherschligt. Following Mr. Porter’s overview of the Journal’s creation, Marie Failinger commented on the history of the journal and its growth. Failinger holds the Judge Edward J. Devitt Professorship at Hamline University School of Law and served as editor-in-chief for the Journal of Law and Religion from 1989 to 2013. Failinger gave insight into the journal’s early years and its dedication to expanding its research to span several religious traditions and include more international scholars and readers. Both Porter and Failinger claim that the Journal of Law and Religion, since its creation, has not only been an interdisciplinary and interfaith space for scholars, but it has been a community for leaders in the field.

After their presentations on the early days of the journal, Porter and Failinger gave the floor to Perry Dane, Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School, who spoke passionately about the vision and impact of the Journal of Law and Religion. Dane served on the editorial board from 2010 to 2013 and currently serves on the international advisory board of the journal. As Dane remembers, in 1984 there was renewed interest in religion in the academy. He claims that what made the Journal of Law and Religion so unconventional and ahead of its time was that it dealt with the secular background assumptions of the academy by focusing on law and religion. The Journal of Law and Religion brought something new to academia as the renewed interest in religion spread across various fields in the academy. But for Dane, what should be truly celebrated is the JLR’s ambition and vision. The Journal of Law and Religion has examined a large canopy of issues such as human rights; religion-state relations; religious legal systems and their place in secular law; political theology; legal and religious ethics; and more.

The event’s last speaker, Jaclyn Neo, Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Asian Legal Studies at the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law and a current editorial board member of JLR, followed Dane’s presentation. Neo gave a thought-provoking speech on the future of the Journal of Law and Religion. The Journal of Law and Religion is not only interdisciplinary and interfaith, but international. As such, Neo asked the audience to wonder what a global future for the JLR would look like? Introducing the concept of plurality, Neo pushed for what she calls “more laws and more religions.” Asserting that the history of the journal reflects the trend from one religion to a more pluralistic take, Neo explained that the Journal of Law and Religion has moved towards greater engagement with faiths, religions, and practices beyond the West and will continue to do so.

After the esteemed colleagues presented, Allard hosted a brief Q&A, accepting questions from the audience members. Several participants attested to the long history of JLR relayed by Porter, Failinger, and Dane, while others engaged with Neo’s concept of plurality. Allard concluded that, in many ways, the central word in the journal’s title is “and” because it emphasizes both the interdisciplinarity of the journal, as well as the constant negotiation between the rich particularity of the world’s many religious and legal systems, as well as the commitment to comparative scholarship in a global framework. Essays from the event will be published in the first issue of the 40th volume of the Journal of Law and Religion in January 2025.


Watch the full event here!


April 28th, 2023

Run of Show:
11:00 – 11:15:   Welcome (Silas Allard)
11:15 – 11:25:   Introductions of Tom Porter and Marie Failinger
11:25 – 11:45:   Porter & Failinger Presentation on the founding, early years, and growth of the journal
11:45 – 11:50:   Introduction of Perry Dane
11:50 – 12:10:   Dane Presentation on the vision and impact of JLR
12:10 – 12:15:   Introduction of Jaclyn Neo
12:15 – 12:35:   Neo Presentation on imagining the future of JLR
12:35 – 01:00:     Q&A/Conversation with the Audience