For those who are interested, here’s a brief writeup of the inaugural Joint Colloquium in Law and Religion, which the St. John’s Center for Law and Religion and Villanova Law School co-hosted this semester. The Joint Colloquium used “virtual classroom” technology that allowed students and faculty at both schools to participate simultaneously through a synchronous video link, and featured leading law and religion scholars:

Michael Walzer (Institute for Advanced Studies) discussed the ethics of war in classical and contemporary Jewish law. Legal historian Sarah Barringer Gordon (University of Pennsylvania) explained how the availability of the corporate form empowered African-American congregations in the early national period. Kristine Kalanges (Notre Dame University School of Law) explored the relationship between Islamic law and contemporary ideas about constitutionalism and human rights. Kent Greenawalt (Columbia Law School) and Donald L. Drakeman (Cambridge University) both presented papers on Originalism. Greenawalt argued that factors other than the original understanding inevitably will and should play an important role in constitutional interpretation. Drakeman offered a methodological middle ground, one that takes account of both original intent and original meaning. Steven D. Smith (University of San Diego School of Law) critiqued the standard account of American religious freedom, and asked whether religious freedom in America today is suffering a decline.

One hears a lot about new educational technologies; some are more promising than others. This was my first experience with the virtual classroom, and I have to say it worked rather well. I think there’s going to be a lot more of this in the years ahead.

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