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Role of Religion in Human Rights Discourse

The Israel Democracy Institute 4 Pinsker Street, Jerusalem

On Wednesday and Thursday, May 16-17, 2012, IDI hosted an international conference on the Role of Religion in Human Rights Discourse as part of the activities of its Human Rights and Judaism project, which is directed by Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern, Prof. Shahar Lifshitz, and Prof. Hanoch Dagan. Topics discussed at the conference included Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Religion, Religion as a Source of Human Rights, Religion and Human Rights on the Ground, and Religion and Gender.

Watch this conference in its entirety (YouTube playlist)

This conference was made possible by the generous support of:
An anonymous donor operating in Israel
The David Berg Foundation of New York

9:00 a.m.-9:15 a.m.

9:15 a.m.-9:30 a.m.


9:30 a.m.-11:15 a.m.

Session 1: Freedom of Religion

Chair: Prof. Barak Medina, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (English)

  • Prof. Christopher L. Eisgruber, Princeton University
    Prof. Lawrence G. Sager, University of Texas - Equal Membership, Religious Freedom, and the Idea of a Homeland (English)
  • Prof. Menachem Mautner, Tel Aviv University - Religion in Politics: Rawls and Habermas on Deliberation and Justification (English)
  • Prof. Kenneth Marcus, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) - Three Conceptions of Religious Freedom (English)

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11:15 a.m.-11:30a.m.

Coffee Break


11:30  a.m.-12:45 p.m.
Session 2: Freedom from Religion

Chair: Prof. Yair Lorberbaum, Bar-Ilan University (English)

  • Prof. Richard Arneson, University of California, San Diego - Political Liberalism, Religious Liberty, and Religious Establishment (English)
  • Prof. Avihay Dorfman, Tel Aviv University - Freedom from Religion (English)

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12:45 p.m.-1:45 p.m.

Lunch break

1:45 p.m.-3:30 p.m.

Session 3: Religion as a Source of Human Rights

Chair: Prof. Tamar Ross, Bar-Ilan University (English)

  • Prof. Christopher McCrudden, Queen's University Belfast and University of Michigan - The Role of Religion in Debates over the Meaning of "Human Dignity" in Human Rights Discourse (English)
  • Dr. Itzhak Brand, Bar-Ilan University - Glory of God and Human Dignity: Between Dialogue and Dialectics (Hebrew)
  • Dr. Haim Shapira, Bar-Ilan University - The Jewish Tradition as a Source for the Right of Political Participation: Contribution and Challenges (Hebrew)

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3:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m.
Coffee Break


3:45 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

Session 4: Religion as a Source of Human Rights (continued)

Chair: Prof. Ella Belfer, Bar-Ilan University (Hebrew)

  • Dr. Gili Zivan, The Yaacov Herzog Center - "Have you murdered and also taken possession?" (I Kings 21:19) On the Gains and Losses that Form the Basis of a Discussion of Human Rights Grounded in the Bible (Hebrew)
  • Prof. Shalom Rosenberg, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem - From Duties to Rights (English)
  • Adv. Iyad Zahalka, Manager of the Sha'aria Law Courts - Human Rights in Islamic Law (Hebrew)

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9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
Session 5: Religion and Human Rights on the Ground

Chair: Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, The Israel Democracy Institute and Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  • Dr. Jonathan Fox, Bar-Ilan University, Dr. Yasemin Akbaba, Gettysburg College - Religious Discrimination in the European Union and Western Democracies, 1990 to 2008 (English)
  • Dr. Micha'el M. Tanchum, Shalem Center - The Legal and Constitutional Establishment of Islamist Extremism in Indonesia: Political Implications for Preserving Liberal Democracy in Islamic Societies (English)

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11:00 a.m.-11:15 a.m.
Coffee Break


11:15 a.m.-12:30p.m.   
Session 6: Religion and Human Rights on the Ground (continued)
Chair: Dr. Noya Rimalt, University of Haifa (English)

  • Prof. Alison Dundes Renteln, University of Southern California - The Tension between Religious Freedom and Noise Laws: Sabbath Calls in a Multicultural Society (English)
  • Dr. Ronit Irshai, Bar-Ilan University - Judaism, Gender, and Human Rights (Hebrew)

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12:30 p.m.-1:45 p.m.
Lunch Break


1:45 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
Session 7: On the Possibility of Dialogue

Chair: Dr. Arye Carmon, The Israel Democracy Institute (English)

  • Dr. Avinoam Rosenak, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr. Alick Isaacs, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Sharon Leshem-Zinger, Sapir College - Human Rights, the Tension between Religion and State, and the Anti-Political Critique (Hebrew)
  • Prof. Shai Lavi, Tel Aviv University - Human Rights and Secularism: Between Universalism and Particularism (English)
  • Prof. Suzanne Last Stone, Yeshiva University - The Interaction of Religion and Human Rights Discourses: Babel or Translation, Conflict or Convergence? (English)
  • Prof. Leora F. Batnitzky, Princeton University - From Collectivity to Individuality: The Shared Trajectories of Modern Concepts of  'Religion' and 'Human Rights' (English)

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4:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
Summary and Conclusion

(Video of this discussion can be found at the end of Session 7 above)