Law, Religion, and Freedom: Conceptualizing a Common Right: A New Book Considers Issues Critical to Our Times

Donlu Thayer is a Senior Fellow at the International Center for Law and Religion Studies. Before her retirement at the end of 2019, she was the Center’s Publications Director. This blogpost is modified from Thayer’s Introduction to Law, Religion, and Freedom: Conceptualizing a Common Right, which she edited with Cole Durham and Javier Martínez-Torrón, recently released by Routledge as part of its ICLARS Series on Law and Religion.

In September 2016, some 150 international experts in law and religion from 37 countries met at St. Hugh’s College in Oxford for the fourth conference of the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS). The event was co-sponsored by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) of BYU Law School, by the Religion, Law and International Relations Programme of the Centre for Christianity and Culture of Regent’s Park College, Oxford, and by the University of Milan.

The conference was organized with attention to the theme ‘Freedom of/for/from/within Religion: Differing Dimensions of a Common Right?’  Two books were developed from papers delivered at the conference and from subsequent conversations related to the theme: Religious Freedom and the Law: Emerging Contexts for Freedom for and from Religion, edited by Brett Scharffs, Asher Maoz, and Ashley Woolley, and the book introduced here, which provides conceptual frameworks for and queries aspects of the theme.

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Obergefell v. Hodges: Five Years Later

Supreme Court of the United States ends marriage discrimination – Obergefell vs Hodges. Photo Creator: Ted Eytan

On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States issued its momentous opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges.  Only a few SCOTUS decisions have provoked such strong debate over the majority’s arguments and its understanding of human dignity or the nature of judicial power.  In this blog conversation, American and European legal scholars and lawyers reflect on the postmodern understanding of marriage that inspired the decision and on the consequences of Obergefell for promotion of LGBTI-people’s rights, on religious exemptions, on democracy in the United States, on children’s rights, on the European Court of Human Right’s jurisprudence, and on the search for the compromise between religious freedom and anti-discrimination claims. This variety of reflections, both positive and critical, illustrates how the decision has become an important episode in American and global legal and human rights history. (more…)

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Human Dignity, SOGI Claims, and the Obergefell Decision


Christine M. Venter
is a Teaching Professor at Notre Dame Law School and Affiliated Faculty in Gender Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

It has now been five years since Obergefell, but one thing that even many opponents of the decision on religious freedom grounds might find common ground with, is the language used by Justice Kennedy when referring to the LGBTI+ community. In his opinion, Kennedy focused on the human dignity of the individual and what is required for dignity and full recognition of personhood. Obergefell represents the culmination of the Court’s gay and lesbian rights cases in that regard; previously Lawrence v. Texas, and United States v. Windsor, both established the idea of the centrality of the dignity of the human person. Lawrence mentioned it three times, while Windsor and Obergefell both referred to it ten times. (more…)

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