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Emory's Center for the Study of Law and Religion launches Canopy Forum

The Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR) at Emory University has been a leader in law and religion scholarship and teaching for nearly four decades. This October, as part of its strategic commitment to push serious engagement with these issues beyond the academy and into mainstream public discourse, CSLR launched Canopy Forum, a digital platform for the production, distribution, and discussion of informed and accessible commentary and analysis on the range of issues that lie at the intersection of law, religion, and policy in the United States and around the world. 

Canopy Forum, which began publishing essays as well as video and other media content on October 1, 2019, is part of CSLR’s response to the impoverished state of informed, productive public discourse. “We believe that law and religion are intersecting factors in many ongoing public conversations,” said CSLR director, Professor John Witte, Jr., “and we feel obliged to leverage our expertise and leadership in this field to help engender better understandings - and debates - in the public sphere.” 

According to Dr. Shlomo Pill, Canopy Forum’s managing editor and a senior lecturer and scholar of church-state issues and religious law at Emory University School of Law, Canopy aims to be a “community of citizens, scholars, professionals, and policy makers working to create a more knowledgeable, civil, and productive public discourse on critical issues affecting our lives and our communities.” This sort of engagement is “critical to the health of democratic societies,” Pill said, and “better understandings of issues emerging at the intersection of law, religion, and society will help insure that public discourse remains as productive and conducive to the general welfare.”

To accomplish these lofty goals, Canopy is relying heavily on social media platforms to both distribute its content and provide a platform for debate and discussion on the issues it tackles. “CSLR has done a remarkable job over the last 30-plus years, publishing some 350 books and thousands of scholarly articles, in addition to teaching dozens of courses, and sponsoring lectures and conferences,” said Justin Latterell, CSLR’s managing director. “And, while we remain committed to scholarly excellence, we also need to make sure our work is accessible to those who can benefit from it.  We have to go where the people are—and that is online in shorter text and video formats and on social media.”

This strategy appears to be paying dividends. According to Dr. John Bernau, digital scholarship fellow at CSLR and Canopy Forum’s digital content editor, “Canopy Forum is an innovative experiment in digital scholarship that uses text, video, and other formats to engage readers. Initial feedback has been tremendous, and we are already growing in scale and scope.” Canopy has garnered thousands of readers and contributors from 43 countries. Access the forum here.