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Religious Freedom: A Global Conversation, 2/10

Co-Sponsored by

The Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy

and the Villanova Political Theology Project


McCullen Center logo


Monday, February 10, 2020

4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Laurence E. Hirsch ’71 Classroom (Room 101)
Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law


Click to Register


The McCullen Center welcomes Michael D. McNally, John M. and Elizabeth W. Musser Professor of Religious Studies at Carleton College, Emilia Justyna Powell, Associate Professor of Political Science and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, and Jolyon Thomas, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at The University of Pennsylvania. These scholars will discuss their new books exploring religious freedom and the intersection of law and religion in the global context.

The lecture is approved by the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board for 1.5 substantive CLE credits.


Michael D. McNally

Defend the Sacred: Native American Religious Freedom beyond the First Amendment by Michael D. McNally (Princeton University Press, 2020)

From North Dakota’s Standing Rock encampments to Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks, Native Americans have repeatedly asserted legal rights to religious freedom to protect their sacred places, practices, objects, knowledge, and ancestral remains. But these claims have met with little success in court because Native American communal traditions don’t fit easily into modern Western definitions of religion. In Defend the Sacred, Michael McNally explores how, in response to this situation, Native peoples have creatively turned to other legal means to safeguard what matters to them.


Emilia Justyna Powell

Islamic Law and International Law: Peaceful Resolution of Disputes by Emilia Justyna Powell (Oxford University Press, 2019)

Powell provides a comprehensive examination of differences and similarities between the Islamic legal tradition and classical international law, especially in the context of dispute settlement. Powell demonstrates that substantive and procedural similarities between these two legal systems surpass their differences to bring about a more peaceful world. Powell presents a significant new interpretation of how states of the Islamic milieu view international law, especially international courts, mediation, and arbitration, and explains how practitioners of international law perceive the Islamic legal tradition and how this tradition is used in the International Court of Justice.


Jolyon Thomas

Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan by Jolyon Thomas (University of Chicago Press, 2019)

Religious freedom is a founding tenet of the United States, and it has frequently been used to justify policies towards other nations. Such was the case in 1945 when Americans occupied Japan following World War II. Though the Japanese constitution had guaranteed freedom of religion since 1889, the United States declared that protection faulty, and when the occupation ended in 1952, they claimed to have successfully replaced it with “real” religious freedom. Through a fresh analysis of pre-war Japanese law, Jolyon Baraka Thomas demonstrates that the occupiers’ triumphant narrative obscured salient Japanese political debates about religious freedom. Indeed, Thomas reveals that American occupiers also vehemently disagreed about the topic. By reconstructing these vibrant debates, Faking Liberties unsettles any notion of American authorship and imposition of religious freedom. Instead, Thomas shows that, during the Occupation, a dialogue about freedom of religion ensued that constructed a new global set of political norms that continue to form policies today.