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Series: Judges and Their Religions

By Jeremy Patrick, David G. Campbell, Christine Venter, David Kenny, and Adelaide Madera

In this series, we provide different perspectives on religion and judging. Five contributors, academics and a U.S. federal judge explore religious diversity and the judiciary, interplays between religious convictions and judicial ethics, and the role of religion and religious beliefs in professional and personal biographies of judges.

The series starts with Jeremy Patrick’s elaboration on interplays between religious diversity and the composition of the High Court of Australia. David G. Campbell discusses public concerns about possible tensions between religious adherence and the judiciary oath and argues that religious devotion can be consistent with good judging.

Based on the example of the South African Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, Christine Venter addresses the obligation of judges to separate their personal religious convictions and the legal reasoning they provide in their decisions. David Kenny explores the biography of Brian Walsh, a prominent Irish justice and a judge of the Strasbourg Court, and the role his Catholic background plays in his jurisprudence.

Finally, Adelaide Madera returns to the composition of the judicial branch in religiously pluralist societies and explains why, in her view, a more inclusive judiciary would contribute to the social acceptability of judicial reasoning.

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The 28th Annual Law and Religion Symposium, sponsored by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies and BYU Law School, was centered on “A Time to Heal: Peace among Cultures; Understanding between Religions.”

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began the 28th Annual Law and Religion Symposium Sunday, October 3, 2021, with a discussion about healing and equal privileges of belief among all people. From a pre-recording at the G20 Interfaith Summit in Bologna, Italy, held in September,  panelists included Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and president of Latter-day Saint Charities, and Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy. Brett G. Scharffs, a professor at BYU Law School and director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, moderated the discussion. This was the second time the symposium was hosted virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The International Criminal Court is in somewhat of a bind in the situation regarding Myanmar and has developed an interesting solution. Prosecuting people for genocide in Myanmar is impossible without a Security Council referral, which is very unlikely, even if the US and UK were to accuse Myanmar of genocide. The possibility of prosecuting people from Myanmar for crimes against humanity that were partially committed within the territory of Bangladesh provides a potential route to some criminal accountability. This route, however, has already been pursued without countries needing to publicly accuse Myanmar of genocide. Accusations from the US and UK would not help the International Criminal Court gain jurisdiction over the case, and therefore the Court would still be unable to prosecute people in Myanmar for genocide in this situation.

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Émile Durkheim, a very famous theoretician of religion, famously said, the difference between religion and magic is that there’s no church of magic. Magic, superstition, and the like are individually practiced whereas religion is inherently social. And I think people need that. If we return to the “Just Orthodox” (prosto pravoslavni), one of the reasons why we have this category is that people want to belong, to feel connected to other people. Religion is a powerful way of doing so. It connects people, not only to members of their own familial or national group, but to those who are living as well as those who are dead; it connects them to ancestors and a place; and it connects them to certain shared practices, values, and a shared emotional palette. This sense of connection and belonging gives religion and religiosity enduring appeal, despite Soviet campaigns of atheism and other, perhaps less draconian secularizing forces, which have yet to offer a relevant counterpart to these meaningful, emotionally felt, and cognitively recognized ways of connecting people.

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Human Dignity Initiative

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with an invitation to a global conversation about preserving and protecting human dignity for everyone everywhere.

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