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Spring Yamauchi series lecture focuses on First Amendment

April 20, 2012

The Department of Religious Studies at Loyola University New Orleans presents Barbra Barnett, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of religious ethics, in a lecture, “The Amish Bernie Madoff vs. The First Amendment” on Tuesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. in Miller Hall, Room 114. A reception preceding the lecture will begin at 6:15 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

In September 2011, Monroe Beachy, a 77-year-old Amish man accused of running a Madoff-like Ponzi scheme, was charged with mail fraud after allegedly defrauding thousands of people out of $16.8 million over two decades. The bankruptcy court proceedings against the estate of the so-called “Amish Bernie Madoff” illustrate many of the tensions inherent in the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.

Most of the fraud victims urged the court to dismiss the case and allow the matter to be resolved in a forum guided by the values of the Old Anabaptist Orders from which the Amish and Mennonites are descended. However, the court ruled that this would violate the First Amendment.

Barnett will explore the issues that this case raises about the meaning of religious freedom, the grounds for appeal that the Amish and Mennonite communities may have had available, and what this case illustrates about the current state of religiously-grounded, conscientious objections to generally applicable laws and policies in the U.S.

Barnett’s research focuses on religious freedom in contemporary society. Currently, she is working on the book “Marketplace of Ideas, Bazaar of Beliefs: The Political Importance of Religious Freedom,” which explores the role of religious freedom in democratic political theory and U.S. constitutional law. As a former lawyer, she has experience in corporate transactional and bankruptcy law. Barnett is also the co-editor of a volume on religion and human rights and has taught classes in ethics, religion in America, philosophy of religion and human rights.

This lecture is part of the H. James Yamauchi Lectures in Religion series, which was created in 1985 in memory of professor H. James Yamauchi, S.J., a celebrated former chair of the Department of Religious Studies who taught at Loyola from 1956 to 1966. This series seeks to perpetuate his work by bringing the results of religious scholarship to a wider audience.

Free parking for this event is available in the West Road Garage, accessible from St. Charles Avenue.

For more information, contact Sara Clark at 504-865-3943 or srclark@loyno.edu.

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