Theories and Conflicts at the Intersection of Law, Morality, and Religion
J.D. Seminar 1301
| 3 credit hours
This seminar for graduate students and law students explores the major theories of the relationship between law and morality (including religious morality) and the way this relationship manifests in contemporary legal and political conflicts. Questions we will address include inquiry into the nature and purpose of law related to moral and ethical life and goals. What is the extent to which moral and religious culture and claims can (or ought) to shape the civil law? How does moral and religious pluralism and diversity affect the inclusion of moral claims into law and policy? Do the ideals of justice to which law and political institutions aim have objective or ontological status or are they more properly conceived as contingent and constructed? Can the authority of law be considered morally legitimate? When law and policy clash with moral and religious culture, which gives way to the other, and are there moral or legal principles for determining how to navigate and/or solve this conflict?
In the first part of the seminar, we will examine the representative theories of this relationship through close readings and discussion of works to include: classic and modern accounts of positivism and command theory in law, (including some attention to modern political theories about the purpose and limits upon political states); classic and contemporary views of natural law and its claims about the civil order; the debate between H.L.A. Hart and Lon Fuller over whether law has an intrinsic moral content; Catholic social teaching and Protestant political thought regarding the moral demands upon the political order; the debate between Hart and Lord Devlin over whether the law and political order may be utilized to sanction behavior on exclusively moral bases; American political thought about the Constitution and limits upon state power over individual (moral and religious) actions; and contemporary political theories about the demands of justice imposed upon political states in a global era.
In the latter part of the seminar, we will investigate three clusters of legal cases and political conflicts in which morality and religion appear as central components of the conflict: 1) the de-criminalization of certain modes of human sexuality and the recent debates over same sex marriage; 2) the clash over the contraception provisions of the Affordable Care Act and demands for religious accommodation; and 3) the relevance of moral and religious claims for legal debates over the efficacy/legitimacy of the death penalty.
A research paper will be the main requirement for the course, along with careful preparation for and participation in the seminar.
Note: Students must register for the 3 credit section of the seminar if they wish to write a paper fulfilling the Upperclass Legal Writing Requirement. The paper requirements of the 2 credit section will not fulfill the Upperclass Legal Writing Requirement.
Note: This course is cross-listed with the Government Department and meets on the main campus. Main campus courses begin Wednesday, January 7, 2015. The first meeting of this course will be Thursday, January 8, 2015 (before the Spring 2015 semester begins at the Law Center). Be aware this course may run on a different calendar than the Law Center during weeks where there is a holiday. Please take this into consideration when creating your schedule so that you have flexibility to attend the class on a different day, but at the same time. See the schedule of courses on the Main Campus Registrar’s Webpage for room assignments at http://registrar.georgetown.edu/. Law Center students may register only through the Law Center’s registration system.
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