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Law School to Hold Interdisciplinary Symposium on
‘Citizenship and Civility in a Divided Democracy’


October 5, 2011

Media Contact: Mark Vanderhoek, (478) 301-4037 or

MACON – The 2011 Mercer Law Review Symposium on Friday will focus on “Citizenship and Civility in a Divided Democracy: Political, Religious and Legal Concerns” as part of the University-wide Mercer Lyceum. The symposium will feature internationally renowned experts on political, legal and religious issues and will take place in the moot courtroom of Mercer Law School from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public.   

The symposium is co-sponsored by the Mercer Law Review, the Mercer Center for Theology and Public Life, the Mercer Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations and the Mercer Phronesis Project for the Exploration of Character, Practical Wisdom and Professional Formation. The symposium is also one of the events in the Mercer Lyceum, which has “Rebuilding Democracy” as its theme for 2011-2013. Articles from Symposium participants will be published in Mercer Law Review, Volume 63, Number 3 (2012). 

“As indicated by its title, ‘Citizenship and Civility in a Divided Democracy,’ the symposium examines issues absolutely central to our society and system of government today,” said Gary Simson, dean of the Mercer Law School. “The speakers range across a variety of disciplines and are truly an outstanding group. The Law School is honored to provide the forum for an exchange of ideas that promises to be unusually thought-provoking and illuminating.”

Throughout the day, three separate panels will explore the nature of political, religious and legal traditions and conversations and how they coincide with each other. Dr. Robert Audi, John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy and professor of management at the University of Notre Dame, will be the symposium moderator and commentator for all sessions.

The first session from 9:15 to 10:30 a.m., will focus on “The Fracturing of the Republic and The Deterioration of Political Conversation.” Dr. Eugene Garver, professor emeritus and Regents Professor of Philosophy at St. John’s University will be the principal speaker with Dr. David B. Lyons, professor of law and philosophy at Boston University, as respondent speaker. Drs. Garver and Lyons will address topics such as the virtues required for our common life as citizens in democracy and for civil democratic conversation, how and why these virtues have been eroded in our society and what resources exists within political thought and our American political tradition for confronting this erosion.

During the second session, from 10:45 a.m. to noon, the panel will discuss “Restoring Democratic Citizenship and Civil Political Conversation: The Role of Our Religious Traditions.” The principal speaker is Dr. Jeremy Waldron, a University Professor and professor of law at New York University School of Law, who also teaches at Oxford University. Mercer’s Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, will be the respondent speaker. They will address topics including how religious traditions and conversation are implicated in common life as citizens and in political conversation, and what these traditions can contribute towards a restoration of the virtues required for democratic citizenship and for civil political conversation.

The third session, from 1:15 to 2:45 p.m., will discuss “Restoring Democratic Citizenship and Civil Political Conversation: The Role of Our American Legal Tradition.” The principle speaker is Dr. Marianne Constable, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Steven D. Smith, Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at University of San Diego School of Law, as principle respondent. This panel will answer similar question as the previous two panels in relation to legal traditions.

The symposium will close with a hypothetical case study roundtable discussion involving the free exercise of religion in the public schools from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

About the Mercer Lyceum
The Mercer Lyceum is an effort to help coordinate existing University lectures and events, as well as new ones, around a single theme. The Lyceum will allow for more in-depth discussions, and, organizers hope, more in-depth learning, while helping to create new partnerships among the many disciplines at Mercer’s campuses. The Lyceum has been approved for four years, with two biennial cycles focusing on a single theme. The first theme is “Rebuilding Democracy” and will run from Fall 2011 to Spring 2013. The theme is built in part to help educate students about the challenges facing American democracy – hyper partisanship, governmental gridlock, low voter turnout and weak understanding of constitutional democracy, as well as outside threats, such as the growing gap between rich and poor, a shrinking middle class and the decline of America’s influence in the world. The Lyceum will help to inform students about these issues, but also help to train them to become better citizens themselves by examining possible solutions to those issues. The organizers hope the conversations help them find ways to address those challenges both as citizens and as professionals in their chosen careers. More at

About Mercer Law School
Founded in 1873, the Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law is one of the oldest law schools in the United States and the first one in the state of Georgia accredited by the American Bar Association. Mercer Law School’s educational philosophy is based on a broadly shared commitment to prepare students for the high-quality practice of law in a day-to-day learning environment that is both strongly supportive and consistently professional. Its innovative Woodruff Curriculum – which focuses on ethics and practical skills amid small class sizes – earned the Gambrell Professionalism Award from the ABA for its “depth of excellence.” With an enrollment of about 440 students, Mercer Law School is nationally recognized for its exceptional programs in legal writing, moot court, public service, and ethics and professionalism. For more information about Mercer Law School, visit or call (478) 301-5000.

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at four regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit
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