MADISON Robert George, the celebrated McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence and founding director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, will speak on “Conscience and Its Enemies: What Moral Truth Matters” on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at St. Paul Inside the Walls: the Diocesan Center for Evangelization at Bayley-Ellard here.
Called “the Christian-Conservative big thinker” by the New York Times, George will speak about what James Madison called the “sacred rights of conscience”— rights for which government shows frightening contempt — as described in his book, “Conscience and Its Enemies: Why Moral Truth Matters.” In the book, he wrestles such controversial issues, such as same-sex marriage, abortion, transgenderism, genetic manipulation, euthanasia and assisted suicide and religion in politics. At St. Paul’s, George will speak as part of Advocati Christi, an ongoing lecture series by notable religious and legal minds about faith and the law. Sponsoring the event is the Outreach to Lawyers, a diocesan fellowship of lawyers and judges, who are committed to the legal profession and profession their faith, which started nine years ago at St. Paul’s.
“Professor George’s presentation will focus on ‘What is moral truth?’ ‘Who has the moral truth?’ and ‘Why would we speak up for moral truth?’ ” said Allan Wright, St. Paul’s academic dean, who added that George made two previous visits to St. Paul’s to discuss the origins of being human and the nature of marriage. “In his book, George brilliantly argues that moral truth relies not on theological claims or religious authority but on scientific facts and a philosophical tradition that extends back to Plato and Aristotle.”
Both lawyers and the general public are invited to George’s talk, which begins with a 5:30 p.m. optional Mass in St. Paul’s chapel, followed by 6 p.m. cocktail hour and conversation; a 7 p.m. presentation, including questions and answers; and an 8 p.m. gathering of fellows of the Outreach for Lawyers, including private dinner with the speaker and discussion. Lawyers are eligible to earn Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits for attending, Allan said.
Writing in the forward of the revised edition of “Conscience and Its Enemies,” Mary Ann Glendon of the Harvard School of Law calls George’s book “a treasure trove of thought-provoking reflections by one of the best minds of our time.”
Among his many accomplishments, George — who earned a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University in England — served as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and, before, on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The speaker had served a Judicial Fellow at the U.S. Supreme Court. He has authored several books, including “The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion and Morality in Crisis” and “Conjugal Union: What Marriage Is and Why It Matters,” as well as many scholarly articles. George has received many honors and awards, including the Canterbury Medal of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Princeton University’s President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching.
This year’s Advocati Christi speakers’ series started on last Nov. 16 with Mary Rice Hasson, an attorney and a Fellow in the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Catholic Studies Program in Washington, D.C. It continues after George’s presentation on Wednesday, March 15 with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Jr.: and then Tuesday, April 25 with Father Paul Scalia, Bishop’s Delegate for Clergy and head of the Clergy Personnel Board in the Diocese of Arlington, Va., and son of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
The cost of George’s Feb. 15 talk is $35 for the cocktail hour, presentation and CLE credits; $25 for the cocktail hour and presentation; $25 for the presentation and CLE credits; and $15 for the presentation.
[To register for Robert George’s presentation, call (973) 377-1004 or go to www.insidethewalls.org.]