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McDonald Agape Foundation Awards $2 Million to CSLR
By CSLR | Emory Law | Emory Law | Nov 14, 2023 12:11:45 PM

The Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University (CSLR) is pleased to announce $2 million of new gifts from the McDonald Agape Foundation. This is the Foundation’s fifth major award to the Center over the past two decades, and these funds have helped to underwrite a long series of research projects, publications, and public programs in law and religion.

This new set of gifts will support the creation of a major new international cohort of McDonald Distinguished Senior Fellows, the appointment of two new McDonald residential scholars, and the continuation of the McDonald Distinguished Professorship, held by John Witte, Jr., CSLR Faculty Director and Woodruff Professor of Law.

Peter McDonald, President and CEO of the McDonald Agape Foundation, describes the Foundation’s partnership with CSLR over the past two decades as “ongoing, profound, compounding, and transformational. Under John Witte’s direction since 1987, the Center has emerged as a distinguished, global scholarly leader on some of the weightier matters of law and religion confronting the world today.”

A Historic Partnership

The McDonald Agape Foundation was founded by Alonzo L. McDonald, a 1948 Emory College alumnus and later member of the Emory Board of Trustees.  A leader of church, state, and economy, McDonald served, among many others, as a professor at Harvard Business School, CEO of McKinsey and Company, US Ambassador for International Trade, and White House chief of staff under President Jimmy Carter. A devout Christian, McDonald had long taken an interest in scholarship that promised to deepen the place of faith in learning—a kind of putting into practice of Anselm’s credo ut intelligam (“I believe so that I may understand”).

The McDonald Agape Foundation and CSLR have formed an historic partnership over the years. Prior to these latest gifts, the McDonald Agape Foundation had awarded nearly $4 million to support CSLR initiatives. Included was generous support for back-to-back, multi-year research projects that brought together three dozen Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian jurists, philosophers, theologians, ethicists, and historians tasked to develop new publications in law and religion. The McDonald funds also supported two dozen distinguished residential and nonresidential research fellowships, a long series of public lectures and conferences at Emory and Christ Church, Oxford, and a memorable international conference at Emory in 2017 on the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. More than 800 scholars have participated in CSLR’s projects and publications sponsored by the McDonald Agape Foundation.


All told, McDonald-funded work at CSLR has yielded nearly 100 new volumes, with several more in press. Included is a series of introductions to Christianity and law commissioned and coedited by John Witte: volumes on Christianity and human rights, freedom, natural law, justice, agape, family law, private law, church law, international law, and the laws of conscience, market regulation, migration, and taxation, with a dozen more titles planned. Another series, on “Great Christian Jurists in World History,” is an ambitious effort to tell the story of law and religion through the lives of one thousand of the greatest Christian legal minds of the past two millennia. Commissioned volumes published in this series so far cover great Christian jurists in the first millennium and in the history of England, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Scandinavia, Russia, the United States, Latin America, and Australia. Most of these volumes have been published by Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Routledge, Eerdmans, and Mohr Siebeck.

All of this scholarly work has been in keeping with Alonzo McDonald’s sole criterion for academic philanthropy: scholarly excellence—and productivity! “Perfection is tolerated,” was one of his favorite lines.

New Directions

With this new set of gifts CSLR will launch several new initiatives, including the appointment of a new cohort of McDonald Distinguished Senior Fellows and Scholars and the extension of the McDonald Distinguished Professorship.

McDonald Distinguished Senior Fellowship

A new McDonald Distinguished Senior Fellowship Program will convene some fifteen law and religion scholars at the apex or cusp of their careers. This group will meet regularly in the United States and Europe between 2024 to 2029 to encourage another generation of scholars and develop another integrated series of books and articles rooted in law and religion and their interplay.  These will add fresh contributions to CSLR’s printed and digital scholarship. The cohort will be drawn from the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox worlds and hail from elite universities across the US and Europe. The new fellows will be announced later this year.

This new fellowship program builds on the momentum of the most recent fellowship, which began in 2019 and is wrapping up this academic year. This fellowship program has produced numerous books, chapters, and articles by the dozen participating fellows, as well as three major symposia on “Christianity and Tax Law,” “Christianity, Liberalism, and the Constitution,” and “Law, Christianity, and Racial Justice.” During the tenure of this fellowship program, two of the fellows were promoted to tenure academic positions, six were promoted to new academic positions, two won prestigious federal judicial clerkships, and two secured prestigious fellowships.

Mark Storslee Joins CSLR Core Faculty

With the generous support of the McDonald Agape Foundation, Professor Dr. Mark Storslee has been named McDonald Distinguished Fellow in Law and Religion to complement his new appointment as Associate Professor of Law at Emory Law School.

Storslee holds a JD from Stanford Law School and a PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia. He also holds two masters degrees from Duke University and the University of Edinburgh, as well as a BA from Furman University. After law school, Storslee clerked for Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain on the United States Court of Appeals, and later for Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch on the United States Supreme Court. He also served as director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School. This year Storslee is completing his work as an appellate litigator at Williams & Connolly LLP, and will join the Emory and CSLR faculty full-time in the summer of 2024.

Storslee’s research explores topics in constitutional law, American legal history, and the interaction of law and religion. His work has focused especially on the meaning of the First Amendment protections of religious freedom and related questions concerning free speech protections. Storslee has published in the University of Chicago Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Review of Politics, the Journal of Law & Religion, and other periodicals.  He is also a co-editor of a four-volume collection on Comparative Religious Ethics: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies (2014). 

In 2020, Storslee received the Harold Berman Award for Excellence in Scholarship by the Law and Religion Section of the Association of American Law Schools. His work is frequently cited in judicial opinions and legal briefs, including those before the United States Supreme Court. Storslee has received student-initiated teaching awards, and he is a frequent speaker at conferences and law schools, including at Stanford, Yale, Georgetown, Pepperdine, George Washington, and Notre Dame.

As a new residential McDonald Distinguished Fellow in Law and Religion, Storslee will be a core faculty member at CSLR and will help lead its projects and publications.

“Mark Storslee’s appointment opens a brilliant new chapter for Emory Law School and for our Center,” says John Witte. “Mark has the scholarly gifts and discipline and the habits of heart and mind to become the scholarly leader of the global law and religion guild in the next generation. We are truly blessed to have him in our community.” 



Mark Storslee (L), McDonald Distinguished Fellow in Law and Religion; and Thomas Jared Farmer (R), McDonald Scholar in Residence

Thomas Jared Farmer Joins CSLR Scholars in Residence

CSLR is pleased to welcome Dr. Thomas Jared Farmer as the new McDonald Scholar in Residence. Jared will work closely with the CSLR leadership team on administering the new McDonald Distinguished Senior Fellows program. He will also provide research support for John Witte and pursue his own scholarship. He joins two other McDonald Scholars in residence, Terri Montague and Matthew Cavedon, each serving in three-year fellowships dedicated to scholarship and teaching.

Farmer holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Illinois, an MTS and Th.M. from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, two more masters degrees in religion from Claremont Graduate University, and a PhD in the Philosophy of Religion from the University of Münster (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster).

In a recent interview with CSLR, Farmer discusses his ongoing research in the philosophy of religion and reflects on his arrival at Emory. 

“We are delighted to welcome Jared Farmer to our CSLR community,” says Whittney Barth, CSLR’s executive director. “His deep research gifts, administrative smarts, and public spiritedness will provide vital support for our Center’s new projects.”


Extending the McDonald Distinguished Professorship

As part of its new philanthropy, the McDonald Agape Foundation will also extend John Witte’s appointment as McDonald Distinguished Professorship through 2031. Witte has held this appointment since 2008, and it has provided vital support for his scholarship, teaching, and project direction. Witte has published 45 books in 15 languages, as well as 315 articles and 18 journal symposia.  He has delivered more than 400 lectures around the world, and directed 20 major international research projects, including all five McDonald-sponsored projects.  He has taught some 8000 Emory Law students since his debut in 1987.

With this extension, Witte plans to finish his books on the Protestant Reformation and law; the history of marriage and family law; and the history and comparative law of religious freedom and human rights. He also plans to work more systematically on what he calls the “weightier matters of the law.” That will include taking up “central questions concerning the nature and purpose of law and authority, the mandates and limits of rule and obedience, the rights and duties of officials and subjects, the care and nurture of the needy and innocent, the justice and limits of war and violence, the nature of fault and the means of punishing it, the sources of obligations and the procedures for vindicating them, the origins of property and the means of protecting it.”