Just for kids

Construction has begun on a $42-million pediatrics building, which will house the Emory Children’s Center and Department of Pediatrics and its 140 faculty researchers and clinicians. The building, scheduled to be completed by July 2004 and designed to be environmentally sensitive, is being financed by gifts from private donors and by the sale of 2.4 acres of land to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.




































































New Woodruff law professor
grapples with tough questions

Should our political leaders rely on a religion-based morality to make decisions that affect American citizens?

That’s just one of the loaded questions Emory law students can expect to explore in classes with Michael J. Perry, the new Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law. Perry comes to Emory this fall from Wake Forest University, where he holds the University Distinguished Chair in Law.

Perry is nationally known for his work on the relationship between morality and the law. “For the last twenty years, Michael Perry has been one of the nation’s leading constitutional law scholars,” says Thomas C. Arthur, dean of Emory 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.”

With his keen interest in religion, morality, politics, and human rights, Perry is expected to bring a new element of synergy to Emory’s law program, which has long sought to strengthen ties with other areas of the University that deal with morality and ethics.

“He is quintessentially interdisciplinary,” says John Witte Jr., 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.”

In his nine books, Perry has grappled with some of the oldest and hardest questions facing American law. He first drew national attention with his 1982 book The Constitution, the Courts and Human Rights: An Inquiry Into the Legitimacy of Constitutional Policymaking by the Judiciary, a defense of judicial activism which was used by critics of President Ronald Reagan’s controversial and ultimately failed nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court. His forthcoming book, Under God? Religious Faith and Liberal Democracy takes up the question of religious morality and political leadership.

“I argue that nothing in our constitution, in our national political morality, makes it illegitimate for politicians to rely on religious morality when they engage in politics,” Perry says. “However, I caution that there are reasons internal to religious traditions for being wary about the extent to which one relies on religious morality.”

Perry uses fiery issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage in his assertion that conservative Christians must be cautious in their use of scripture-based arguments, “if those reasons are not supported by contemporary human experience.”

“We have to go back and ask if we have not misinterpreted scripture, much the way slaveholders did,” Perry says. “The idea of human rights is based on the idea that each and every human being is infinitely precious. But it’s difficult to defend that claim apart from religious faith. There is a very solid foundation for belief in human rights in religious tradition.”

Perry will become the law school’s second Woodruff professor. He will teach courses in law and morality, and the constitution and human rights. The law school’s first Woodruff professor is comparative and international legal scholar Harold J. Berman, who came to Emory in 1985 from Harvard Law School; a third, Martha Fineman, joins the faculty in spring 2004 (see related story).

“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 law school and the University as a whole are tangibly committed to pursuing,” Perry says. “There is no law school or university in the United States that would be more supportive of my work in these areas—or, by virtue of the overall intellectual and scholarly environment, more stimulating to me—than Emory. I am especially eager to work with the students who come to Emory in part because of its institutional commitment to these ideas.”—P.P.P.





© 2003 Emory University