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The Child in Law, Religion, and Society

This project represented a deep interdisciplinary exploration of children, with a focus on birth, naming, and growth; children's rights and rites; education and formation; child abuse, poverty, and homelessness; juvenile delinquency and violence; and public policy responses and reforms. Directed by Martin E. Marty and John Witte, Jr., this project yielded 13 major public forums, an international conference, and 24 new volumes and journal symposia. This project was funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, Inc., the John Templeton Foundation, and the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love.


What's Wrong with Rights for Children?

This conference marked the culmination The Child in Law, Religion, and Society Project by exploring the successes and failures of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Issues included the leading role the U.S. played in drafting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, though the U.S. remains the only country besides Somalia that has not ratified it; reasons why the Convention was never taken to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent; the most serious objections to ratification of the Convention and the best response to them; the role American religious groups play in the debate of the Convention's ratification and other foreign policy concerns; how the Convention has been interpreted and applied in other countries; and whether the U.S.'s unwillingness to ratify the Convention undermines the nation's credibility in promoting human rights and freedom of religion.

Keynote Address: Martin E. Marty

Panel: Should Children's Groups Oppose the Children's Convention

Don S. Browning, David Smolen, and T. Jeremy Gunn discuss whether religious groups should oppose the Children's Convention. Polly Price moderates.

How Would States Apply the Children's Convention?

Kimberly Jenkins, Johan D. van der Vyver, and Howard Davidson discuss how states would apply the Children's Convention. Michael J. Perry moderates.

What's Wrong with Children's Rights?

Martha A. Fineman and Martin Guggenheim discuss what's wrong with children's rights. Karen L. Worthington moderates.

What Does the Children's Convention Require?

Jaap E. Dook, Philip G. Alston, and Landon Pearson discuss the requirements of the children's convention. T. Jeremy Gunn moderates.

Why Did the U.S. Drive the Children's Convention and Then Withdraw Support?

Cynthia Price Cohen and Martin I. Scherr discuss why the U.S. drove the Children's Convention and then withdrew its support. Johan D. van der Vyver chairs.

The Family Forum Series

2006-2007: The Future of Family Life

This panel discussion touched issues of modern family life, including same-sex marriage, covenant marriage, abolition of marriage as a legal category, and the role of the church in marriage reform. Panelists included John Witte, Jr. and Mark D. Jordan.

2006-2007: Diana B. Henriques

2005-2006: Vocations of the Child: Do Kids Have a Responsibility?

This panel discussion explores what it means to be a child - roles, responsibilities and rights - and explores historical and contemporary Christian understandings of what a children is called and capable of being in their relationships with God, neighbor, and self. Panelists are Patrick M. Brennan, Professor of Law, Arizona State University.; John E. Coons, Bridges Professor of Law Emeritus, University of California at Berkeley; Marcia Bunge, Professor of Theology and Humanities, Valparaiso University; and Paul Vitz, Professor of Psychology Emeritus, New York University. 


Earl Lewis: Affirmative Action: Did the Supreme Court Save It?

Kay Levine: The Intimacy Discount in Statutory Rape Cases

Peter Ash and Robyn Fivush: Challenges of Adolescence and Violence

Robert Franklin: Cosby's Call and Our Response: What the Church and Community Should Do

Monica Kaufman: Spare the Rod: Legal and Religious Challenges in Raising Children of the Book

Steven Tipton: Why Churches Say No: The Challenges Faith-Based Initiatives Pose to Religion and Family


William H. Foege and Martin E. Marty: Children: Will We Ever Get It Right?

President Jimmy Carter and Martin E. Marty: What Happens to Children in Peril?

Millard Fuller and Martin E. Marty: Where Will the Children Live?

Martha A. Fineman and Don S. Browning: Who Cares for the Children?


This project analyzed the nurture, education, and formation of children in the world religions, and in America. This project was sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts, Inc. and directed by Don S. Browning. 
This project was a comparative analysis of the "best interest of the child" principle in law and the "best love of the child" principle in theology and the social science, with an argument that the first right of the child is the right to be loved. This project was sponsored by the John Templeton Fund and directed by Timothy P. Jackson. 


The Autonomy Myth: A Theory of Dependency (The New Press, 2004), Martha Albertson Fineman

The Child in Christian Thought (William B. Eerdmans, 2001), Marcia J. Bunge

Children and Childhood in World Religions (Rutgers University Press, 2009), Don S. Browning and Marcia J. Bunge, eds.

Children and Childhood in American Religions (Rutgers University Press, 2009), Don S. Browning and Bonnie Miller-McLemore, eds.

Children, Youth, and Spirituality in a Troubling World (Chalice Press, 2008), Mary Elizabeth Moore and Almeda M. Wright, eds.

Christian Ethics and the Moral Psychologies (William B. Eerdmans, 2006), Don S. Browning

The Civic Seminary: Sources of Modern Public Education in the Lutheran Reformation of Germany, Hamline Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 12, No. 1 (1995-96): 173-223), John Witte, Jr.

Equality and the Family: A Fundamental Practical Theology of Children, Mothers, and Fathers in Modern Societies (William B. Eerdmans, 2007), Don S. Browning

Latino Immigrants and the Transformation of the U.S. South (University of Georgia Press, 2009), Mary E. Odem, Elaine Lacy

The Morality of Adoption: Social-Psychological, Theological, and Legal Perspectives (William B. Eerdmans, 2005), Timothy P. Jackson

The Mystery of the Child (William B. Eerdmans, 2007) Martin E. Marty

Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life (University of Chicago Press, 2007), Steven M. Tipton

Recruiting Young Love: How Christians Talk about Homosexuality (University of Chicago Press, 2011), Mark D. Jordan

The Sins of the Fathers: The Law and Theology of Illegitimacy Reconsidered (Cambridge University Press, 2009), John Witte, Jr.

The Vocation of the Child (William B. Eerdmans, 2008), Patrick M. Brennan

What is Right for Children? The Competing Paradigms of Religion and Human Rights (Ashgate, 2009), Karen Worthington and Martha Albertson Fineman, eds.