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Jan. 9, 2002 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
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Antonin Scalia, Frank Keating, and Paul Simon to speak at death penalty conference

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will speak on the morality of capital punishment at the conference "A Call for Reckoning: Religion and the Death Penalty" sponsored by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life at the University of Chicago Divinity School. On January 25, 2002, Justice Scalia will join prominent scholars of politics, religion and law to consider the religious dimensions of the death penalty. The conference will also include other political officials who enact and enforce capital punishment laws: Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, former Senator Paul Simon, and Beth Wilkinson, prosecutor in the Timothy McVeigh trial, are all scheduled to speak.

Should the attacks of September 11 and the war on terrorism alter our views on the death penalty? Is it just to mete out capital punishment for crimes like those committed by Timothy McVeigh? Should the same punishment be applied in "routine" homicides, even when the guilt of the accused is uncertain? The conference organizers argue that there are deep moral issues at stake in these questions, and religious dialog should be part of our response. Yet, they say, much of our current thinking about capital punishment does not take seriously the religious arguments for and against capital punishment or the implications of religious beliefs. In fact, religious perspectives on capital punishment are not usually explored beyond an occasional Biblical reference to "an eye for an eye," or general calls for mercy and forgiveness.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the University of Chicago Divinity School together seek to promote a deeper understanding of how religion shapes the ideas and institutions of American society. They are hosting this conference to apply a broad and deep range of religious perspectives to the death penalty. "A Call for Reckoning" will bring together Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Muslims, scholars and practitioners–all experts from the fields of politics, theology, philosophy, and law–to ask, first, how religion shapes current thinking about the death penalty; and, second, what role religious beliefs should play in a democratic society that often presumes strict boundaries between personal faith and political life.

Other conference speakers include: Khaled Abou El Fadl, a scholar of Islamic law at the UCLA School of Law; Victor Anderson, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Vanderbilt Divinity School; J. Budziszewski, political philosopher at the University of Texas at Austin; E.J. Dionne, Jr., columnist at the Washington Post, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and co-chair of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life; Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham University; Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago and co-chair of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life; Richard Garnett, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame Law School; Gilbert Meilaender, Professor of Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University; and David Novak, J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.

In a time of heightened controversy surrounding the death penalty, "A Call for Reckoning" on January 25 will bring scholars and politicians together for a wide-ranging and provocative conversation.

An agenda, extensive background information and online registration forms are available at:
Last modified at 10:45 AM CST on Thursday, January 17, 2002.

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