2017 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Comparative Law

"Comparative Law, Faith and Religion: The Role of Faith in Formulation, Development and Application of Law"

October 26 – 28, 2017

American University Washington College of Law
4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016

The proposed general theme seeks to compare political, market and social institutions to address private and public law conflicts in societies that fall under either a faith-based or a non-faith based legal tradition. The theme has two parallel goals arguing both against the dichotomy between faith and non-faith based legal traditions while at the same time maintaining the distinction as a useful device to address some of the challenges faced by predominantly Islamic countries as well as religious minorities in Western societies where laws are deemed to be non-faith based.

The first goal is to challenge the very notion that there is a dichotomy between faith based and non-faith based societies. By exploring the distinction between religion and faith, the theme assumes that faith (defined as complete trust and confidence in a belief system) is essential to the functioning of any legal system whether that faith is in a form of secular morality or a religious one. We explore how the notion of laïcité affects societies by foregrounding “non-religious” based behaviors in state-citizens relations while obscuring how religious norms impact market and family relations. In addition, many substantive areas of western law draw upon religious-faith traditions which in turn play an important role in the development of legal doctrines in private, public and criminal law.

The second goal is to understand societies where faith as well as religious law is foregrounded such as Islam and Judaism. We also hope to address the resurgence of Confucianism in China as well as the continued influence of the Hindu faith to the extent that such faith continues to trump secular laws in name of social custom.

We believe that a better understanding of the dichotomy between faith-based and non-faith based legal traditions will provide new tools for comparative scholars to understand why legal reforms are widely unsuccessful both in the West as well as countries like Egypt, Syria or Iraq. For this reason, there will be two general framing sessions tackling the main faith-based traditions in both Western and Non-Western legal thinking. After each methodological session we delve with three panels with concurrent sessions addressing more contemporary and specific examples of the proposed topic.

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