Prof. Stephen L. Carter received a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd after he delivered the second annual Hubert L. Dellinger Jr. Lecture on Thursday, March 11, at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Prof. Carter, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University, spoke on the topic of church-government relations.
In the address, Prof. Carter stated his own discomfort with court decisions that have affirmed the innocence of the government in cases where the government disturbed or destroyed the practice of a religion. In such cases, the government was found to be innocent only because it did not intend to harm the religious practice. Instead, the disruption occurred by accident. He observed, “time after time governments and private institutions alike adopt rules which affect people’s ability to practice religion without ever thinking about whether they are going to have that effect or not. And whenever the rule says that you are not liable for that (affecting someone’s ability to practice their religion) unless you did that on purpose, it will discourage an institution from taking precautions…There is no need to be on guard against the possibility of harming someone’s religion unless you are under some penalty if you do it.”
Prof. Carter also spoke about the difficulties faced by religious people who attempt to serve in public office. He observed that “People of religious bent who enter that arena have to recognize from the beginning that they cannot through that avenue affect serious, structural, radical change (in society)…the changes they can affect are limited and the terrible risk is that by sticking it out, by fighting in that political arena longer and longer and longer, they may progressively lower their sights to the point where the program they are presenting and fighting for is no longer recognizably religious.”
Prof. Carter is the author of many critically-acclaimed books including “The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion,” “Integrity,” “Civility: Manners, Morals and the Etiquette of Democracy,” and “The Dissent of the Governed: A Meditation on Law, Religion and Loyalty.”
In recent years, Prof. Carter has become known for his thoughtful stance on many of the complex issues confronting America. He is recognized as a keen observer of American culture, and his observations and reactions are sought by many in mass media. He writes frequently for law reviews and for publications including “The New York Times,” “The Wall Street Journal,” “The New Republic,” and “The New Yorker.”
“Prof. Carter is an intriguing speaker who challenged his listeners to think beyond traditionally accepted concepts of church-state boundaries,” commented Prof. John F. Johnson, President of Concordia Seminary. “His lecture was a perfect example of what we hope to offer to the Seminary and St. Louis communities through this lecture series. We are grateful to Dr. Hubert L. Dellinger Jr. for his generosity and thoughtfulness in establishing this lecture series.”
Established in 1997, the Hubert L. Dellinger Jr. Lecture Series was designed to feature nationally- known speakers who would address subjects which intersect the disciplines of theology, sociology, philosophy and law. The inaugural lecture was delivered on January 28, 1998 by United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
For more information, contact Rev. Glen D. Thomas, Vice President for Seminary Relations, Concordia Seminary, 801 DeMun Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63105; 314-505-7371; firstname.lastname@example.org.