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The War Within

September 28, 2018 @ 10:00 am - 11:30 am

Speaker: Prof. Netta Barak-Corren, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The ‘culture war’ paradigm has come to dominate the legal discourse on conflicts between religious liberty and sexual and gender equality. Despite its intuitive appeal, this paradigm rests on a problematic methodology and flawed assumptions. As a result, the culture war paradigm misconceives religion as monolithically oppositional to equality and wrongly assumes that the conflict is a zero-sum game.

After identifying these problems, Professor Barak-Corren (LLM ’13, SJD ’16) argues for an alternative framework that acknowledges the war that occurs within religion regarding equality challenges. Religious groups are diverse and dynamic and their response to sexual and gender nonconformity varies from opposition to tolerance in systematic and predictable ways. Drawing on in-depth interviews with religious leaders, on a large-scale decision-making experiment (N=559), and on cases from a range of contexts, she identifies a systematic practice of ‘social impact regulation,’ whereby religious decision-makers selectively apply and enforce religious norms based on the perceived impact of sexual nonconformity on the community and the social status of the religious norm.

Professor Barak-Corren discusses the implications of this practice for legal doctrine and for the negotiation of conflicts between law and religion. She concludes with the argument that the current discourse must change. Religion and equality are interacting social processes, not incommensurable cultural opposites. The culture war paradigm should be modified or abandoned.

Please RSVP for the talk using this link (open until Sep. 26), as seating and catering might be limited.


The Harvard Empirical Legal Studies (HELS) Series explores a range of empirical methods, both qualitative and quantitative, and their application in legal scholarship in different areas of the law. It is a platform for engaging with current empirical research, hearing from leading scholars working in a variety of fields, and developing ideas and empirical projects.

HELS is open to all students and scholars with an interest in empirical research. No prior background in empirical legal research is necessary. If you would like to join HELS and receive information about our sessions, please subscribe to our mailing list by completing this form.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the current HELS coordinators: Elena Chachko and Gali Racabi


September 28, 2018
10:00 am - 11:30 am
Event Categories:
Graduate Program


WCC 3034 Room