February 21, 2007 14:11 Age: 7 yrs

Lilly, Luce Award New Grants to CSLR

By: April L. Bogle

Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded $400,000 to the Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR) for the continuation of a research project on "Law, Religion and the Protestant Tradition," and the Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. has awarded $480,000 for a new, three-year project on “Law, Religion, and Human Rights in International Perspective.”

The two grants bring CSLR's total of new grant funding in the past year to $2.5 million. The John Templeton Foundation awarded $750,000 in August, the McDonald Foundation awarded $750,000 last April, and an anonymous donor gave an additional $150,000 last fall.   

Lilly Grant: Law, Religion and Protestant Tradition

The Lilly grant enables John Witte, Jr., Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law and CSLR director, to continue his work in the area of law, religion and protestant tradition. 

“This grant will allow Professor Witte to provide additional new scholarship that retrieves, reconstructs and reengages some of the best Christian teachings on law, politics and society for use by the church and its members,” said Craig Dykstra, senior vice president for Religion at the Endowment. “We believe work of this caliber is critical to the health of the church and American society. It will help restore deep learning in American Evangelical and Protestant churches, schools and societies, and it will support authentic Christian thought and action at major Protestant colleges and seminaries.”

Witte will write two books, tentatively titled The Fall and Rise of Marriage and The Uses of the Law: Toward a Protestant Jurisprudence. He also will generate 25 articles and 25 lectures on these subjects. The purpose, he says, is to address the growing inability of the modern Protestant and Evangelical churches to engage the hard legal, political, and social issues of today with “doctrinal rigor, moral clarity, and biblical authenticity.”

“Most Protestant churches and church folk have been narrowly preoccupied with single hot button issues – abortion, prayer in the schools, same-sex marriage, and intelligent design -- with too little consideration for ‘the weightier matters of the law,’” said Witte. “This is in stark contrast to centuries past when Protestant churches produced massive codes of moral law and church discipline that covered many areas of private and public life."

Witte believes the legal structure and sophistication of times past need to be restored “lest the church lose its capacity for Christian self-rule, and its members lose their capacity to serve as responsible Christian ‘prophets, priests, and kings’ in the community.”

“I want to do my small part to help the church engage responsibly the great legal, social and political issues of our age, and to help individual Christians participate in the public square in a manner that is neither dogmatically shrill or naively nostalgic but fully equipped with the revitalized resources of the Bible and Christian tradition,” he said.

During the project’s original Lilly Endowment grant period (1998-2005), Witte wrote 47 book chapters and articles, delivered 49 public lectures, and published 10 books. Titles include:

1) Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment (Westview Press, 2000, 2nd ed. 2005)
2) Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation (Cambridge University Press, 2002)
3) Sex, Marriage and Family in John Calvin’s Geneva I: Courtship, Engagement and Marriage (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005) (with Robert M. Kingdon)
4) Covenant Marriage in Comparative Perspective
(Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2005) (with Eliza Ellison)
5) Family Transformed: Religion, Values, and Society in American Life (Georgetown University Press, 2005) (with Steven M. Tipton)
6) Sex, Marriage and Family in World Religions (Columbia University Press, 2005) (with Don S. Browning and M. Christian Green)
7) Modern Christian Teachings on Law, Politics, and Human Nature, 2 vols. (Columbia University Press, 2005) (with Frank S. Alexander)
8) God’s Joust, God’s Justice: Law and Religion in the Western Tradition (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006)
9) To Have and to Hold: Marrying and its Documentation in Western Christendom, 400-1600 (Cambridge University Press, 2007) (with Philip Reynolds)

Luce Grant: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in International Perspective

The Luce-funded project will make CSLR research on religion and human rights available to activists, public policy leaders, and media experts.  It will also assess the current state and future questions of religion and human rights that will confront different legal communities around the world.

“Discussion of rights has emerged as a central issue in political, legal, and moral discourse today, and rights protections and violations have become increasingly important issues in domestic and international law and diplomacy,” said Terrill E. Lautz, Luce Foundation vice president.  “Through the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs, we are working to bring deeper understanding to the role of religion in policy issues, including CSLR’s significant research on human rights and democratization.” 

Electronic and print materials, educational conferences in America and abroad, and two new books are among the communication materials and formats to be developed.

CSLR has explored the contributions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other faith traditions to the cultivation--and abridgement--of human rights and democratic norms within international law and domestic constitutional law for the past 15 years.  This work has probed some of the hardest issues of religious persecution and bigotry, religious proselytism and discrimination, women’s and children’s rights and their abridgement by religious groups, among other topics. 

“Our Center’s work has created a common table and an open lectern for deep dialogue about human rights among antagonists from multiple confessions and professions around the world,” said John Witte, Jr., Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law and CSLR director. “This grant will enable us to broaden the scope of participants in this important conversation.”

Witte will lead the project with Johan D. van der Vyver, I.T. Cohen Professor of International Law and Human Rights at Emory, who has published eight books on this subject, including an award-winning 1977 title, Seven Lectures on Human Rights, that introduced human rights talk to his native South Africa.  This is the fourth major project on religion and human rights directed by Witte and van der Vyver.  The three prior projects yielded a series of 10 major conferences in the Americas, Europe, and Africa, and 15 new books.

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