Program on Church, State, and Society hosts John Inazu, author of “Learning to Disagree” for Book Talk

Author: Sarah Doerr

Professor John Inazu and ND Law Professor John Inazu
Professor John Inazu and ND Law Professor Rick Garnett

Notre Dame Law School’s Program on Church, State, and Society recently hosted a discussion between its founding director, Professor Richard Garnett, and his longtime friend and colleague Professor John Inazu to discuss Inazu’s book, "Learning to Disagree: The Surprising Path to Navigating Differences with Empathy and Respect."

Inazu is the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University’s School of Law, where he teaches criminal law, law and religion, and various First Amendment courses. He focuses his scholarship primarily on First Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion, and the surrounding legal and political theory, and writes and speaks frequently about these and other issues.

In “Learning to Disagree,” Inazu defines what it means to engage in respectful and productive disagreements, and how to not compromise one’s convictions in the process. Through his book, he emphasizes the importance of engaging in honest and even empathetic ways with those whose viewpoints may be at odds with one’s own in an effort to live more joyfully in a complex society.

“I started this book in the middle of Covid when everyone was sort of isolated and alone and shouting at each other across the internet, and I thought, ‘We have to figure out better tools of re-engaging and figuring out how to have arguments and hard conversations,’” said Inazu. “It occurred to me that even though most people think of lawyers as those stubborn people who argue a lot, good lawyers actually know that you have to be really good at understanding the other side in the best possible light. Even if only for pragmatic reasons and to make your own side better, doing the work to understand the other side's argument is actually a work of empathy.”

Inazu has written three books and published opinion pieces in the Washington Post, Atlantic, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, USA Today, Newsweek, and CNN.

Watch a video of the discussion here.