Announcing the Max Kade German-American Research Institute, with the co-sponsorship of the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.

Religious Rights, Civil Rights, Human Rights in the German and American Contexts, 1948 - Present
                The topic of universal human rights has blossomed into a vast and at times confusing rhetoric during the last quarter century. Centers and institutes in law schools, schools of international relations, and various academic disciplines can be found across the globe. But increasingly voices have been raised insisting that for the term to have any meaning, it must be rooted in specific historic and cultural contexts. One of the pioneers in writing on human rights has concluded that "prior to the second half of the seventeenth century, the idea that all human beings, simply because they are human, have rights that they may exercise against the state and society received no substantial political endorsement anywhere in the world." But that same author, aware of the importance of cultural specificity, asserts that "human rights are not in any important way culturally relative" (Donnelly 75, 106).
                Emerging conflicts between religious and civil rights increasingly defined as human rights as well as the protection of immigrants and religious minorities, have intensified recently in both the Federal Republic and the United States. The Max Kade German-American Research Institute at Penn State will convene a major international, interdisciplinary conference from March 23 - 25, 2017. Led by a collection of eminent scholars, the conference will present through an initial public plenary lecture as well as more focused scholarly sessions on the manner in which the German Federal Republic since its founding, and the United States after the appearance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have approached questions of human, civil, and religious rights. Bringing together an international body of scholars drawn from the disciplines of law, history, Germanic languages and literature, sociology, political science, philosophy, and religious studies, the conference examines the multiple causes of why the two contemporary nation-states and societies approach the bundle of issues that can be placed under the umbrella of "rights talk" from perspectives that are sometimes shared, but in others, profoundly different. We do not wish to focus either on the aftermath of the Holocaust per se, nor on the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s in the U.S., but rather hope that the concern for human rights that emanated from both will encourage engagement from contributors with more recent events.


"Rights—Human, Civil, Religious—in The Federal Republic of Germany and the U.S. Since 1948"

The Max Kade German-American Research Institute and the German Historical Institute

The Max Kade German-American Research Institute and the German Historical Institute


Thursday, March 23: arrival of participants

Friday, March 24: First Session: The Constitutional and Legal Bases for Human Rights (8:30 AM to 11:00) (All Sessions at The Nittany Lion Inn)

  1. Fabian Wittreck, Law Faculty, University of Muenster ,” Human, Civil, and Religious Rights in the Federal Republic of Germany since 1948”
  2. John Witte, Jr. Law Faculty, Emory University, “ The Contributions of Christianity to the Development of Western Rights.”
  3. (Chair and Comment): A.G. Roeber, History, Penn State

Lunch at the Nittany Lion Inn, 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM

Second Session: 1:00 to 3:00 P.M. Religious and Bio-Medical Aspects of Human Rights:

  1. Thomas Bremer, University of Muenster, Theology (Chair and Comment)
  2. Christof Breitsameter, University of Munich, Theology, “ The Right to Die: Normative Patterns and Their Bioethical Implications. “
  3. Gayle Woloschak , Northwestern University, Theology/Bioethics, “Reflections on Biomedical Aspects of Human Rights”
  4. Rabbi Prof. Michael J. Broyde, Emory University, Theology/Law, “Religious and Bio-Medical Aspects of Human Rights in the Jewish Tradition: A Sacred Birth, a Sacred Life, and a Sacred Death”

Third Session: 3:30-5:30 PM: The History and Philosophy of the Human Right of Asylum

  1. Carl J. Bon Tempo, SUNY-Albany, History, “Refugees and Human Rights in the Post-World War II United States”
  2. Michael Reder, Hochschule für Philosophie München, Philosophy, „Post-secular Society and Human Rights in a Globalized World: Comments on Jürgen Habermas and Richard Rorty.
  3. Anne C. Rose, History, Penn State , (Chair)

Plenary Lecture 7:00 PM : Prof. Dr. Dieter Grimm, Humboldt University of Berlin; Federal Constitutional Court (Foster Auditorium, Pattee Library) : “Commonalties and Differences in Fundamental Rights Theory and Practice in Germany and the United States.”

Reception for Presenters 8:30-9:30 PM ( Mann Room, Pattee Library)

Saturday, March 25:

Fourth Session: 8:30 to 11:30 AM

Human and Religious Rights from the Perspective of Sociology and Political Science

  1. Ulrich Willems, Political Science, University of Muenster, “ Contingency, (Christian) Dominance, and Religious Plurality: Historical Determinants of the German religio-political Order since 1948.”
  2. Hans-Georg Ziebertz, Religious Education/Sociology, University of Würzburg, “Human Rights and the Concept of Dignity: An Empirical Perspective”
  3. Roger Finke, Penn State University, Sociology, “ Recent Findings on Religious Freedom: A Global Assessment and American Update.”

Lunch: 11:30 to 1:30 PM

Fifth Session: 2:00 to 4:30 PM: Human Rights, Civil Rights, Religious Rights in Germany and the US

(General Discussion among all Participants)

Closing Banquet 6:00 PM: Nittany Lion Inn

Sunday 26 March—Breakfast at Nittany Lion Inn (optional) and Departures