Religious Liberty

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
THU 5:00 - 7:30 pm TNH 2.124

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location
Floating (administered by Faculty Assistant)


This course will be taught in person but with the option of remote participation via Zoom.  Please note that this course might become online-only in the event that actual in-person attendance during the semester consistently falls below a threshold to be determined in the exercise of reasonable discretion by the instructor and the Student Affairs Office.

This is an exciting time to study the law of Religious Liberty.  The Supreme Court in recent years has taken multiple cases to clarify the scope of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment, and there is no indication that this trend will stop.  Regardless of one’s underlying perspective or position, studying Religious Liberty is a way to understand not just that area of constitutional law, but also to examine the Supreme Court as an institution and to trace the development of an important body of law alongside developments in American and world history.

This class is an introduction to the law of Religious Liberty, and accordingly will begin with the historical and jurisprudential foundations of the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause.  We will then turn to the development of the doctrine in the United States, examining how and asking why the Supreme Court's analysis has evolved from beginnings of its jurisprudence until today.  We will pause to consider in depth how Employment Division v. Smith has been applied in the decades since the Supreme Court decided it.  We will also discuss the intersection of the Free Exercise Clause, the Establishment Clause, the Free Speech Clause, and the Free Association Clause.  Our course will conclude with analysis of the cutting-edge issues being litigated in the courts, and in particular in the Supreme Court, and we will provide some examples where students can dig more deeply into a record to develop the best arguments on both sides of actual cases.  

This is a two-credit course open to students who have already taken a Constitutional Law class.  No other prerequisite is required.  In order to avoid the need for make-up classes, we plan to meet for about three hours at a time, but not meet one out of three weeks (not necessarily every third week, however).  The course is graded, but students are welcome to exercise their pass-fail option if they wish.  Grades will turn on (1) participation, including reliable attendance, and (2) the student's choice of a short exam or a short paper.

Textbooks ( * denotes required )

No materials required


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