Chicago law prof to talk religion at La Sierra

University of Chicago law professor Brian Leiter will address several intriguing issues tied to the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment during his lecture at La Sierra University next month.

Brian Leiter, Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago.

Among them, "Is there any good reason why only those with religious claims of conscience should be able to get exemptions from the law, while those with secular claims of conscience can not?" he states.

Leiter's presentation is titled "Is Religion Special? Toleration, Conscience and Exemptions from the Law," and will serve as this year's Isaac Backus American Freedoms Lecture on Religious Liberties. It will be held Tues., Feb. 4, 5:30 p.m., at the Troesh Conference Center in La Sierra's Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business. Admission is free.

Leiter is the Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago.

His lecture is based on themes from his book, "Why Tolerate Religion?" published last year by Princeton University Press. "Drawing on important modern arguments for toleration in the work of John Rawls and John Stuart Mill, I argue there is not a good justification for the current inequality at the heart of our current First Amendment jurisprudence," Leiter said. "However, I also argue that we should be less willing to grant exemptions than we presently are, since many exemptions impose costs on others and on the general welfare of society as a whole."

Leiter's teaching and research interests are in general jurisprudence, including its intersection with issues in metaphysics and epistemology, moral and political philosophy, in both Anglophone and Continental traditions, and the law of evidence.

He has written and edited several books including "The Future for Philosophy," published in 2004 by Oxford University Press, "Naturalizing Jurisprudence," published by Oxford in 2007, and The Oxford Handbook of Continental Philosophy which he co-edited. His articles include "Moralities are a Sign-Language of the Affects" published in Social Philosophy & Policy in 2013, and "Moral Skepticism and Moral Disagreement in Nietzsche" forthcoming in Oxford Studies in Metaethics.

Leiter has given lectures at universities around the world, including most recently, the Julius Stone Address in Jurisprudence at the University of Sydney in Australia. He serves on the editorial boards of several publications including the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, the Journal of Nietzsche Studies, and the Journal of Moral Philosophy.

The Isaac Backus lecture is presented by La Sierra's University Library and the Department of History, Politics and Society. The Isaac Backus American Freedoms Lecture is funded by the Florence and Eleanor Backus American Freedoms Endowment established in 1986 with a gift from the estate of sisters Florence and Eleanor Backus.

The long-time Riverside residents died during the 1980s. They were descendants of Isaac Backus (1724-1806), a leading Baptist preacher, member of the first Continental Congress and a dissenter who fought the imposition of religious taxes and generally championed the cause of religious freedom. Among other things, he published a sermon in 1773 articulating his desire for separation of church and state.

The primary purpose of the La Sierra endowment is to facilitate understanding of important constitutional issues concerned with American freedoms, particularly those intersecting with religious liberty.

La Sierra University is located at 4500 Riverwalk Parkway, Riverside. For further information call 951-785-2341.

  • Last update on  July 23, 2014