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Theology professor wins research fellowship to study law and religious freedom at the Center for Theological Inquiry

June 11, 2014 | By Nick Alexopulos

David Decosimo Loyola University Maryland
David Decosimo

David Decosimo, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology at Loyola University Maryland, has been awarded one of only 13 research fellowships granted by the Center for Theological Inquiry in Princeton, N.J., to study law and religious freedom during the 2014-15 academic year.

The $45,000 fellowship gives Decosimo the opportunity to spend a year at the Center and focus on scholarly research full time. He will join the other fellowship recipients—scholars from all over the world—for the Center’s “Inquiry on Law and Religious Freedom,” a comprehensive examination of how a rule of law that preserves religious freedom can be reconciled with the requirements of many different religions. Princeton University’s Program in Law and Public Affairs will also participate in the inquiry. Each scholar will pursue research on a topic related to the inquiry’s theme, and the scholars will meet regularly to discuss their individual work to ensure interdisciplinary collaboration shapes their final publications. Decosimo’s book, No Lord But God: Domination in Christianity and Islam, will explore the challenges and possibilities surrounding the issue of domination in Christianity and Islam.

“This question of domination in government and human relationships has been very important and very consequential since near the beginning of each of these religions,” said Decosimo. “It’s the sort of thing that people fight wars over, march in the street over, and give their lives for. What my book attempts to do is show that these two religions, whatever their struggles with domination or whatever ways they themselves have perpetrated it, actually have resources to both agree on what domination is and to resist it together.”

Decosimo cites the Occupy Wall Street protests and uprising in Egypt’s Tahrir Square as contemporary examples of groups standing up to domination. While Christianity and Islam likewise oppose domination, outsiders often interpret these traditions as enacting practices and policies toward unbelievers not unlike the very domination each religion claims to reject. These issues have fascinated Decosimo throughout his career, and he is honored to conduct further research on the topic alongside an elite group of scholars.

Now in his third year at Loyola, Decosimo continues to study Christian relations with Muslims, Jews, atheists, and other non-Christians. Those themes are central to his first book, Ethics as a Work of Charity: Thomas Aquinas and Pagan Virtue, which is due out in July 2014.

The Center for Theological Inquiry is an independent research institution that runs a distinctive program for visiting scholars. Each year the Center’s director convenes a resident interdisciplinary team of theologians and scholars to work on a common topic. Rooted in Christian theology, the Center welcomes outstanding scholars in all branches of inquiry.

More information on the Center is available at ctinquiry.org.

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