New Association Will Link Religiously Affiliated Law Schools

  • News Photo 3413
    An audience member poses a question during a panel discussion chaired by Baylor Law Professor Melissa Essary, third from left. Other panel members include, from left, Professor Judith McMorrow of Boston College Law School, Professor Katherine Darmer of Chapman University Law School, and Professor Robert K. Vischer of the University of St. Thomas Law School.
  • News Photo 3412
    Professor Katherine Darmer, the daughter of Baylor's Dr. Robert M. Baird, served as one of the panelists at the Religiously Affiliated Law Schools Conference. A faculty member at Chapman University School of Law, Calif., she previously served as an Assistant U. S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, specializing in the prosecution of cases involving violent gang activities, narcotics, and public corruption.
  • News Photo 3411
    Religiously affiliated law schools nationwide were represented at the conference at Baylor Law School.
April 3, 2006

Representatives of 28 religiously affiliated law schools nationwide agreed unanimously during a conference at Baylor Law School on Saturday to the formation of a sponsoring organization based on their schools' "common strengths."

Known provisionally by its working title, the Association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools, the organization is "committed to sharing our experiences with one another and with the larger legal community," said Baylor Law Professor Mark Osler, who organized the three-day conference program.

"Religiously-Affiliated law schools, while diverse in geography, faith background and profile, have much in common," Osler said. "Chief among these commonalities is the raw ability to include faith in discussions of justice, morality, and conflict, all of which are at the center of the study of law. This past weekend, our conversations and friendships allowed us to form a new organization based on common strengths. This is a very significant development."

He said the conference agreed that an executive committee of eight should be formed to lead the new organization, including Osler, Professor Amy Uelman of Fordham University, and Professor Robert Cochran of Pepperdine University. They will choose the remaining five committee members.

The Baylor professor said that religiously affiliated law schools have been meeting regularly every other year for some time, but without the benefit of a sponsoring or permanent organization. "Our conference at Baylor Law School this past weekend was the sixth such conference, and the question of a more formal structure was one of the topics under discussion on our last day. It received a very enthusiastic endorsement."

Osler said the association will continue to meet every other year, alternating between Catholic and non-Catholic (Jewish and Protestant) schools. "We will welcome any school with a religious affiliation and will continue to invite such schools to join us. The wide representation at this conference reflects the current interest."

Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben said religiously affiliated law schools have a different and important perspective to add to the milieu of legal education, just as do so many other interest groups within legal education. "We are hoping that we will be able to provide a more structured and visible venue to teachers and scholars to discuss how faith bears upon their teaching and scholarship, and also we anticipate that the organization will be able to provide a common forum for the discussion of issues of concern and interest to schools with an articulated and felt faith mission"

For more information about the association, contact Osler at 254.710.4917 or email Mark_W_Osler@baylor.edu.

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