Baylor Law to Host Conference of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools

March 22, 2006

by Alan Hunt, (254) 710-6271

Faculty members and administrators representing up to 30 religiously affiliated law schools nationwide are expected to attend "Justice Through the Lens of Faith," the sixth conference of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools (RALS) scheduled for March 30-April 1 at Baylor Law School.

Baylor Law Professor Mark Osler, the program organizer, said the purpose of the conference is to renew bonds among religiously affiliated law schools; to celebrate the diversity of the faiths they practice; and to "contemplate the meaning of justice within these many traditions and the practice of law."

"As a Baptist professional school, Baylor Law School must wrestle with a dual identity. On the one hand, it is educating students to enter a thoroughly secular profession, but still maintains a religious identity," Osler said. "The RALS conference is a wonderful opportunity to compare notes with other Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish institutions which share the same duality. As host, Baylor looks forward to sharing our wonderful campus and faculty with this especially diverse and engaging group of visitors."

Among the topics to be discussed are:

• Justice, Traditions and Scripture
• Justice and Criminal Law
• Justice Within the Law School Curriculum
• Lying and Lawyers
• Open Discussion: Seeing Injustice
• Torts and Justice
• Economic Justice and Property
• Should the Religiously Affiliated Law Schools Have a More Formal Structure?

The last two RALS conferences were held at Pepperdine University in 2002 and at the University of Notre Dame in 2004, Osler said.

"They are held every two years, and alternate between Catholic and Protestant institutions. This is the sixth such conference. Oddly, there is no sponsoring organization -- the whole thing has been done on an ad-hoc basis. One of the sessions this time, actually, is on forming some kind of (sponsoring) organization."

"Law schools with religious affiliations have had occasion in past years to come together on matters of common concern that bore upon accreditation and professional organization membership requirements," said Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben. "One aspect of this gathering will allow participating schools to further explore the viability and need to cooperate for other purposes bearing upon our respective heritages, and yet meaningful, faith missions."

Several panels, examining different aspects of the idea of justice and featuring panelists from many member schools, will be presented. Osler said two of the conference sessions will offer broader participation, including an "open discussion" in which any participant will be allowed four minutes to comment on the topic of "seeing injustice." He added, "This topic is intentionally vague, to promote a broad discussion of justice issues within society and the academy."

All conference sessions will be held in Room 127 at the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center, with registration and an opening reception scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 30. Friday's program will include four panel discussions and an open discussion, "Seeing Injustice." Participants will be the guests at an off-campus 6 p.m. Texas Ranch Dinner. Two panel discussions and a forum, "Should the Religiously Affiliated Law Schools Have a More Formal Structure?" are scheduled for Saturday morning.

For more information about the RALS conference, contact Osler at 254.710.4917 or email Mark_W_Osler@baylor.edu. Registration and conference information can also be found at law.baylor.edu/RALS/2006/RALS_2006.htm.

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