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Focus Areas

Research programs at CSLR reflect the depth and breadth of the work of our Center and our scholars. Our four major research programs encompass different religious traditions and different points on which law and religion intersect, including human rights, religious freedom, immigration, and marriage and family. Our projects are interdisciplinary, often engaging theologians and jurists from around the globe. The Center is grateful to Emory University and our external funders who make our programs and projects possible. The ideas expressed in our programs and projects reflect those of our scholars and not the Center.
Our Law and Christianity program, directed by John Witte, Jr., includes lectures and conferences made possible by the McDonald Agape Foundation, as well as our Christian Legal Studies project and our Christian Jurisprudence II project, both funded by McDonald and several other foundations. Our Sex, Marriage, Family, and the Religions of the Book project ran from 2000 - 2007.
Our Law and Islam program is headed by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, an internationally known scholar of Islam and human rights.
Our Law and Judaism program is directed by Michael J. Broyde, a scholar in Jewish law as well as family law.
Human rights is a primary area where law and religion intersect. Our Law, Religion, and Human Rights program has focused on international human rights through the work of Johan D. van der Vyver, I. T. Cohen Professor of Law and Human Rights and an expert on international criminal law and international human rights, and Michael J. Perry, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law and an internationally known Constitutional Law scholar. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na-im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law, has worked extensively in this area, as has John Witte, Jr., Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law and CSLR director. This program includes our Restoring Religious Freedom project as well as the Pursuit of Happiness project, which concluded in 2011, and The Child in Law, Religion, and Society, which ran from 2003 to 2008.

From the start, Center faculty have been deeply involved in questions at the intersection of law, religion, and jurisprudence. Harold Berman developed a cutting-edge theory of integrative jurisprudence that combined legal positivism, natural law theory, and historical jurisprudence. Johan van der Vyver has offered deep theories of sphere sovereignty and the role of religion in state affairs. Michael Perry has explored hard questions at the intersection of law, religion, morality, and constitutionalism. Rafael Domingo has analyzed the place of God and religion in modern law, including global law. Brent Strawn has produced major work on biblical law and its influence on church and state alike. John Witte, Jr. and Frank Alexander have led a series of projects on Christian Jurisprudence. 

The Center has also welcomed as visiors and lectures renowned scholars who have worked on these theoretical questions, including His Holiness the XIVthe Dalai Lama, the Honorable Irwin Cotler, Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the Venerable Matthieu Ricard, and Professors Robert Bella, Stephen Carter, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Martin E. Marty, Oliver O'Donovan, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and many others. Much of this work in law, religion, and jurisprudence has occurred as part of projects in the Center's foundational focus areas. Moving forward, the Center will bring this work together in a new focus area, further developing and deepening this long-standing area of inquiry. 

Director: Rafael Domingo 


The proper allocation of rights, duties, responsibilities, and opportunities within society is a principal question for both legal and religious thought. Service to those disadvantaged by society is a hallmark of many religious institutions; fair and equitable treatment of all people is the aspiration of many legal systems. While these aspirations may be shared, the vision for what makes a just and fair society is often contested; even when the vision is shared widely, both religious and legal ideas and practices also serve to create injustice and inequality. 

This new focus area will support research on the systematic conditions that give rise to patterns and practices of oppression and marginalization, with a focus on the role that law and religion play in creating, interrupting, and dismantling social inequities and injustices. This new focus area is inspired by the work of Center Founding Director Frank Alexander on homelessness, affordable housing, and the impact of vacant and abandoned properties on the fabric of community life. 

Director: Silas W. Allard 

Law, Religion, and Medicine are the three classic faculties of the university, with a millenium long history of shared knowledge and inquiry. Today healthcare is one of the largest sectors of the global economy. Almost every person encounters the healthcare system over the course of a lifespan; for some people doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices are a factor of deaily life. The corollary growth of the public health field has yielded important insights into the interconnected social, cultural, and environmental determinants of health outcomes. This new focus area will bring the binocular of law and religion to issues of healthcare delivery and public health, with particular attention to issues of bioethics and the regulation of healthcare; religious opposition to the availability of certain interventions and procedures; religious healthcare refusal; conscience exemptions for healthcare providers; and religious law and doctrine pertaining to healthcare decision-making. 

This is the Center's newest focus area and an important expansion of the Center's work into new issues, disciplines, and professions. The Center does not yet have established leadership or ongoing major initiatives in this area. Instead, the initial phase of development for this focus area will require the Center to develop expertise within the Center and to build a network of existing experts at Emory and around the globe. Initiatives in this focus area will concentrate on building partnerships, engaging in collaborative research or teaching endeavors with experts in healthcare and public health, and expanding the knowledge and experience of the Center's leadership. The Center has identified one promising area to pursue, as described below. 

Major Initiative: 

Law, Religion, and Sexual Health: The past three decades have transformed our understanding and practice of sexual identity, expression, and intimacy. Legal, religious, and moral authorities now confront a wide range of new issues concerning gender identity, transsexuality, and sexual transitioning; new attention to sexual harassment, abuse, trafficking, and violence; new forms of procreation and family organization. Building on two decades of Center work on sex, marriage, and family life, this new project will focus especially on therapeutic, pastoral, legal, and health care training that professionals will need to responsibly address these emerging issues. 

Michael J. Perry lectured in China, reuniting with many of the Chinese human rights scholars he has worked with over the years.

Law, Religion, and Human Rights: Perry reunites with human rights scholars in China

Judaism and Law: Broyde on Religious Courts in Jewish Law

Christianity and Family Law," edited by John Witte, Jr. and Gary Hauk, is part of the Witte-edited Law and Christanity series, published by Cambridge University Press

Christianity and Law: New book on Christianity and Family Law