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Constitutional Law and Philosophy of Law

Staff Member

Prof (IT) Iain Benson
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Professorextraordinary(Contract)
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Constitutional Law and Philosophy of Law
IB 82
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Short CV

Iain T. Benson, Short form Biography (November, 2009)

Born in Scotland and dual citizen of Canada and the United Kingdom, Iain Benson is a lawyer and was the first Executive Director of the Center for Cultural Renewal, Ottawa, Canada, a think-tank (est. 1993) dedicated to examining the nature of pluralism with particular reference to the associational rights dimension of religion and expression. He resigned that position in 2009 to become Senior Associate Counsel of the national Canadian Law firm Miller Thomson LLP and pursue work internationally.

He studied in Canada, Scotland and England and holds degrees from Queens University (literature), the University of Cambridge (law) and University of Windsor (law). He is currently a doctoral student (Constitutional law) at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and as of November 1, 2009 is Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Constitutional Law and the Department of the Philosophy of Law, Faculty of Law, University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. He is also a Research Fellow for the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life at the University of Alberta (October, 2009).

Since his 1985 call to the Bar, he has appeared before all levels of Court in Canada up to and including the Supreme Court of Canada in cases involving human rights and constitutional law and has been a witness before a wide variety of Professional Organizations, Commissions and Parliamentary committees. He has consulted to the governments of Ireland and Canada and is the first non-national Research Associate for the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law (Johannesburg).

He has lectured across Canada, the United States, Europe, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. At the invitation of the Canadian Bar Association he gave a paper to the 2006 National Conference on “Religion and the State” and wrote the Canadian chapter to an international symposium on Religious Liberty for the Emory Journal of International Law (2007). His work on “secular” and “secularism” has been cited, in recent years, as authority by the Supreme Court of Canada and the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Over the past two years he has been invited to be part of an inter-faith working group drafting the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms. This work has drawn together the leaders of every major religion in that country. This Charter, due for completion in 2010, could be a model not just in South Africa but around the world since it sets out – in a manner endorsed by all the religions themselves – core aspects of citizenship and the rights and freedoms of religion and conscience in a constitutional democracy.

He was one of two people retained by the Canadian Federal Government to write background “think-pieces” for the Policy Research Initiative (an internal Federal Government “think-tank”) looking at “Religion and Public Policy” as an aspect of Federal Multi-culturalism Policy. That work Taking a Fresh Look at Religion and Public Policy in Canada: The Need for a Paradigm Shift was submitted in January 2008.

Iain T. Benson ; address for email, iainbenson2@gmail.com

Area(s) of Interest

PROF. IAIN T. BENSON

Inaugural lecture as Professor Extraordinary presented on THURSDAY 14 OCTOBER 2010:

LIVING TOGETHER WITH DISAGREEMENTS AND THE LIMITS OF THE LAW

Originally hailing from Canada and currently residing with his family in France, Prof. Benson is an academic with a wealth of experience and expertise in the field of law, especially with regard to the right of conscience and religion. His achievements number many, including being a Senior Associate Counsel at one of Canada’s leading law firms, Miller Thompson LLP; and serving on the Founding Board of the Global Centre for Pluralism.

Apart from his work on leading cases in the United Kingdom and Ireland, Prof. Benson also has strong ties with the law in South Africa. He is part of the Continuity Committee that is responsible for the major undertaking of drawing up the South African Charter of Religious Rights and Freedoms in cooperation with all the major religions in South Africa which, when completed, will be the first use of Section 234 of the South African Constitution.

The inaugural lecture tackled various conscientious and topical issues regarding the complex relationships between the law and religions. Starting off the lecture, Prof. Benson recalled that living together with disagreement is a necessary achievement in free and democratic societies and that differences of belief and opinion should not be resolved by force acceptance of a “one-size fits all” model. Mentioning religion and same-sex marriages, Prof. Benson held these up as issues which reasonable people may disagree on and should hence be respected by the public sphere that is girded round by the law.

Quoting Sophocles’ Antigone, Prof. Benson noted that tensions between the so-called divine and imminent or state laws as in a non-theocratic state have always been with us. He stressed the importance of a wide respect by the law for civic associations in addition to but particularly in relation to religion which guides citizens views about wrong and right beyond matters that are regulated by law.

(THURSDAY 14 OCTOBER 2010)