Conference on Religions, Rights, and Institutions

Carl A. Fields Center 58 Prospect Avenue, Princeton University

In cooperation with Princeton University’s Law and Public Affairs Program

On November 23–24, 2014, IDI's Human Rights and Judaism project and Princeton University’s Law and Public Affairs Program convened a conference entitled "Religions, Rights, and Institutions" at Princeton University.

The conference focused on how institutional design, of both religions and political regimes, affects the relationship between religious practice and human rights. It examined how the internal organization (formal and informal structures and rules) of religions and religious communities affect the rights of members of religious communities and the functioning of religion as a source of human rights. It investigated the scope of, and limits upon, a just state’s authority to compel changes in the internal aspects of organized religion in the name of human rights. It explored how social and political institutions shape religious behavior and how they affect the human rights of members of religious communities and the society at large.
The discussions moved past the usual focus on the personal free expression of religion to consider how religions are structured as normative organizations, how state law regulates the way religious organizations are constituted, and how they function in a pluralistic society. Our purpose was to illuminate the institutional challenges posed by, and possible responses to, the fraught relationship between religion and rights in the world today.

Speakers at the conference included:

  • Prof. Christopher L. Eisgruber, President, Princeton University
  • Prof. Leora Batnitzky, Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor and Chair of Religion, Princeton University
  • Prof. Lawrence Sager, Alice Jane Drysdale Sheffield Regents Chair in Law, University of Texas at Austin
  • Prof. Yedidia Stern, Faculty of law, Bar-Ilan University; Vice-President of Research, The Israel Democracy Institute
  • Prof. Hanoch Dagan, Stewart and Judy Colton Professor of Legal Theory and Innovation, Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University; Senior Fellow, The Israel Democracy Institute
  • Prof. Shahar Lifshitz, Dean, Faculty of Law, Bar-Ilan University; Senior Fellow, The Israel Democracy Institute



12:00-1:15 p.m. Opening Lunch

Opening Remarks

  • Hanoch Dagan
  • Christopher Eisgruber
  • Kim Scheppele

Session 1: What Forms of Religious Recognition Are Compatible with Secularism?

  • Cecile Laborde, University College, London.
    Minimalist Secularism and Disaggregated Religion
  • Yedidia Stern, Bar-Ilan University
    Religious Law and Civil Law in Israel: A Zero-Sum Game?
  • Commentator: Christopher Eisgruber, Princeton University

Session 2: Honoring Religious Practices in Secular Law (or Not)

  • Leora Batnitzky, Princeton University
    Is Conversion a Human Right? A Comparative Look at Religious Zionism and Hindu Nationalism
  • Mary Anne Case, University of Chicago
    Why 'Live-And-Let-Live' Is Not a Viable Solution to the Difficult Problems of Religious Accommodation in the Age of Sexual Civil Rights
  • Commentator: Melissa Lane, Princeton University

4:30-5:45 pm
Session 3: Religious Ideas as a Source of (or Substitute for) Secular Law

  • Intisar Rabb, Harvard University
    Reform of Islamic Law by 1000 Amendments
  • Amihai Radzyner, Bar-Ilan University
    The Impact of Supreme Court Rulings on the Halakhic Status of the Official Rabbinical Courts in Israel
  • Commentator: Mirjam Künkler, Princeton University.

6:00 p.m.    Reception and Dinner



8:15-9:00 am Breakfast

9:00-10:15 am
Session 4: Religious Origins of Modern States: How the Past Remains in the Present

  • Silvio Ferrari, University of Milan and Fellow, Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton
    The Christian Roots of the Secular State
  • Michael Karayanni, Hebrew University
    Tainted Liberalism: Israel's Millets
  • Commentator: James Q. Whitman, Yale University and Fellow, Program in Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University.

10:30-11:45 am
Session 5: Preserving the Social Distinctiveness of Religious Institutions as a Constitutional Value

  • Larry Sager, University of Texas
    Why Churches Can Discriminate
  • Haim Shapira, Bar-Ilan University
    Equality in Religious Schools – Should the Court Intervene?
  • Commentator: Jan-Werner Müller, Princeton University

12:00-1:15 pm
Session 6: Localism and Religious Diversity (Or Managing Pluralism with Decentralization)

  • Yishai Blank, Tel Aviv University
    In Search of the Secular: The Dialectics of Religious and Secular Federalism in Israel
  • Roderick Hills, New York University
    Decentralizing Religious Accommodation
  • Commentator: Alan Patten, Princeton University

1:15-2:30 pm Lunch


2:30-3:45 pm
Session 7: Pluralism and Intolerance: Secularism's Dilemmas

  • Ori Aronson, Bar-Ilan University
    The 'How Much' Question: An Institutionalist's Guide to Pluralism
  • Peter Danchin, University of Maryland and Fellow, Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton
    Antinomies of Religious Freedom: The Jewish Free School and Egyptian Bahai Cases
  • Commentator: Turkuler Isiksel, Columbia University and Fellow, Program in Law and Public Affairs

4:00-5:15 pm
Session 8: Marriage and Family:  Pluralist Challenges

  • Shahar Lifshitz, Bar-Ilan University
    Civil Regulation of Religious Marriage in Israel from the Perspectives of Liberal Pluralism, Human Rights, and  Political Compromise
  • Stephen Macedo, Princeton University, and Robert Katz, Indiana University
    Religious Accommodation in the Wake of Same-Sex Marriage
  • Commentator: Rick Garnett, Notre Dame University [tentative]

5:30 pm Reception and Closing Dinner