October 10, 2012 John Witte, Jr., Will Discuss "Sharia in the West?" Nov. 1

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Jason Steinhauer (202) 707-0213

Legal scholar John Witte, Jr., will discuss how Western legal systems grapple with non-state-based, family-law systems such as Sharia, Halacha and Canon Law.

Witte will present “Sharia in the West? What Place for Faith-Based Family Laws in Liberal Democracies?” at the Library of Congress at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1 in Room 119 on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. SE, Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by the John W. Kluge Center at the Library, the lecture is free and open to the public. Tickets are not needed.

Witte is a specialist in legal history, marriage law and religious liberty. He recently completed his tenure as the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the Kluge Center.

He predicts that the Western-legal-system handling of Sharia will become hotly politicized in America in the next few years, as has happened recently in Canada and the United Kingdom.

“It might be a new local statute that is passed or a hard case where a Muslim polygamist challenges the validity of a bigamy statute, or an imam who tries to enforce fatwa imposed on someone for failing to subscribe to Sharia,” Witte said. “If something like that happens in the United States, it’s going to be a big case on the level like we’ve dealt with on same-sex marriage or abortion in decades past.”

In his lecture, Witte will discuss how he believes scholarship can aid in widening the conversation surrounding a potentially inflammatory topic. Historical context and opinions of other legal systems add valuable precedents, he said.

Witte is the Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law, Alonzo L. McDonald Distinguished Service Professor, and Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion Center at Emory University. He has published 220 articles, 15 journal symposia, and 26 books, including recently “Religion and the American Constitutional Experiment” (2000, 3d. ed. 2011) and “Sex, Marriage and Family Life in John Calvin’s Geneva,” (two volumes: 2005, 2012).

With major funding from the Pew, Ford, Lilly, Luce, and McDonald foundations, Witte has directed 12 major international research projects on democracy, human rights, and religious liberty, and on marriage, family, and children. He has been selected 11 times by Emory law students as the Most Outstanding Professor and has won dozens of other awards and prizes for his teaching and research.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world's best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library's rich resources, and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For more information about the Kluge Center visit www.loc.gov/kluge/.


PR 12-190
ISSN 0731-3527