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2017-18 Archives

Co-sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Department of Religious Studies

ACCORDING TO THE TERMS OF THE INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT, passed by Congress in 1998, a unique history of religious freedom has endowed the United States with a special responsibility to promote this virtue abroad as a goal of foreign policy. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor has compiled annual watchdog-style reports on every country in the world – except for the United States itself – ever since. Yet how exceptional or exemplary is the U.S. record of accommodating religious freedoms? How have other countries, informed by their own histories and circumstances, negotiated complex terrains of religion, statehood and citizenship? And what are the states of religious freedom around the world today, in light of current controversies over abortion, sexuality, changing gender roles, religiously-motivated terrorism, the rights of religious minorities, and the establishment of official religions?

During its 2017-18 theme year on “STATES OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM,” Penn DCC will study the U.S. experience within a comparative international context, exploring how states – as political entities – accommodate or hinder religious expression and culture, as well as how social conditions – states of collective being – affect and influence the practice of religious freedom. 

    Co-sponsored by the National Constitution Center, the Penn Dept. of Religious Studies, 
    and the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.

    IN AMERICA TODAY, MANY RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS contend that government anti-discrimination policies require them to do things that violate their faiths, while others feel religious claims are being used to violate their rights.  In countries worldwide, concerns about terrorism in the name of religion are fueling strong measures to police, even persecute, many minority communities - Muslims, Christians, secularists, and others among them.  This panel brings together spokespersons for three faiths and for secular worldviews to discuss whether and how freedoms for and from religion are endangered today, and what Americans' responses should be.

    • Silverstein Forum, Stiteler Hall First Floor (Accessibility)
      Free and open to the public / Co-sponsored the the Penn Department of Religious Studies

      Discussant: Jolyon Thomas (East Asian Languages & Civilizations)

      All attendees are encouraged to read Prof. Su's paper, available here.

      DETERMINING WHAT IS AND WHAT IS NOT a substantial burden on religion currently preoccupies the American legal and political milieu because of legal controversies surrounding its health-care statute. But defining what a burden is for the purpose of triggering legal protections for religious freedom has important consequences beyond a single issue.  Professor Su considers and compares the caselaw of the United States, Canada, and the European Court of Human Rights and argues for an expansive understanding of the burden requirement in evaluating religious accommodation claims — an understanding that would encompass the spiritual practices of indigenous peoples and the lands they hold sacred.

      ANNA SU is an Assistant Professor in the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Her primary areas of research include the law and history of international human rights law, U.S. constitutional law (First Amendment), and law and religion. Her research has appeared in the Vanderbilt Law Review, the International Journal of Constitutional Law and the Journal of the History of International Law. Prior to coming to Toronto, she held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy based in SUNY Buffalo Law School, and a graduate fellowship in ethics with the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.She is the author of Exporting Freedom: Religious Liberty and American Power (2016).

      All attendees are encouraged to read Prof. Su's paper, available here.