March 31, 2003

Perry named Woodruff Professor

By Elaine Justice

Legal scholar Michael Perry will come to campus this fall as a Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law. Perry, one of the nation’s leading authorities on the relationship of morality to law, comes to Emory from Wake Forest University, where he holds the University Distinguished Chair in Law.

“For the last 20 years, Michael Perry has been one of the nation’s leading constitutional law scholars,” said Tom Arthur, dean of the School of Law. “No contemporary scholar in his field has probed more deeply the issues of law and morality, or the dilemmas presented by using moral values to interpret the individual rights provisions of the Constitution.”

“One of the major draws for Michael Perry is Emory’s Law and Religion Program,” said interim Provost Woody Hunter. Perry will be a welcome addition to the program, which already boasts a world-class group of scholars who examine issues ranging from religious human rights to the pros and cons of religious proselytism.

Perry’s work has focused on three distinct areas: American constitutional law, the proper role of religiously grounded morality in American law and politics, and the morality of human rights.

Arthur said Perry will complement Emory’s already diverse roster of public law faculty. He also expects Perry’s work will strengthen “bridges between the law school and other parts of the University that are concerned with moral theory.”

“[Perry] is quintessentially interdisciplinary,” said John Witte, Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law and Ethics, who chaired the Woodruff selection committee. “He has brought legal, political, social and moral theory into a rare and powerful combination.”

Perry’s forthcoming book, Under God? Religious Faith and Liberal Democracy, argues that political reliance on religious faith violates neither the Constitution’s establishment clause nor the morality of liberal democracy. The book also addresses three controversial issues at the center of American public life: school vouchers, same-sex marriage and abortion.

“The issues that are of the greatest interest and concern to me—the relation between law and religion and to human rights studies—are subjects that Emory’s law school and the University as a whole are tangibly committed to pursuing,” Perry said of his appointment. “I am especially eager to work with the students who come to Emory in part because of its institutional commitment to these ideas.”

Perry will become the law school’s second Woodruff professor, the highest honor Emory can bestow on a faculty member. The school’s other Woodruff professor is comparative and international legal scholar Harold Berman, who came to Emory in 1985 after a distinguished career at Harvard.