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Professor Wilson Parker to chair panel as part of ‘The Rule of Law and the Rule of God’ symposium on March 23

Wake Forest University School of Law Professor Wilson Parker will chair a panel on “Aspirations and the Limits of Law” as part of the “The Rule of Law and the Rule of God: A Symposium on Ethics, Religion and Law” on Tuesday, March 23.

The event will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Benson University Center’s Pugh Auditorium. Professor Parker’s panel is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Attendance is free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged.

Frank Ravitch, professor of law at Michigan State University, will discuss “Religion, Neutrality and Liberty: Epistemology and Judicial Interpretation,” and Andrew March, assistant professor of political science and law at Yale University, will discuss “Theocrats Living Under Secular Law: An Engagement with Islamic Legal Theory.” Richard Miller, director of the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions and professor of religious studies at Indiana University, will act as the respondent.

Home to more than 30 Islamic centers and the longest-serving Muslim elected official in the U.S. (General Assembly Sen. Larry Shaw), North Carolina is a microcosm of the challenges faced by the 300 million Muslims worldwide who live in countries where Islam is not the majority religion.

Although their challenges have become even greater in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001,  attacks and the Iraq War, Muslims are not the only religious group coping with the complicated relationship between law and religion. To some extent, all Western societies are struggling to find ways to accommodate non-Christian cultural practices.

A former policy advisor from the Department of Homeland Security and now Counsel, Bill of Rights Defense Committee will join with religious and legal scholars to address these issues in the symposium.

“It is important for people to understand that religion and state are not disconnected and to fruitfully engage in discussions about how law and religion can make distinct contributions to the welfare of humanity,” says Simeon Ilesanmi, Washington M. Wingate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Religion at Wake Forest, who organized the conference.

“That the United States is immune to issues of religious fanaticism is untrue,” Ilesanmi added. “We need to cultivate an attitude of tolerance and speak honestly about how religious texts can be exploited by extremists of all faiths for political gain.”

The conference also will explore how other countries are grappling with issues of church and state.  For example, in France and Germany, head coverings have brought Islamic gender issues and terrorism fears to the forefront. Meanwhile Britain is struggling with strategies for allowing both traditional Islamic shari’a law to coexist with secular law.