Notre Dame Law School offers Program on Church, State & Society

Law School

As the oldest Catholic law school in the country, it’s fitting that Notre Dame would educate its lawyers in the field of religious freedom. One of its newer offerings, the Program on Church, State & Society, studies the intersection of these three pillars and encourages scholarship which highlights the role of religion and religious institutions in society and in law.

Jonathan Hannah, the program director, explains the importance of the program by saying, “Our religious freedom is enshrined in our First Amendment, yet unfortunately some Americans have no full contextual understanding of what that means. And, as a result, religious freedom is often under attack and requires defense from well-educated and well-motivated lawyers.”

Hannah also underscores that content gleaned from this program can have an international impact as well. He says, “Religious freedom around the globe is under serious threat. In numerous countries, religious minorities are denied the right to worship freely and are persecuted in various ways that would seem unfathomable to most Americans. Lawyers, academics, and others must speak out against these atrocities.”

The enrolled law students—currently about two dozen—are taught by an impressive roster of faculty from the Law School and from the departments of theology, philosophy, history, and political science. The program offers paid summer fellowships to students who wish to intern at religiously-affiliated organizations and law firms, like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or archdiocese offices.

The Program also sponsors an annual National Appellate Advocacy Tournament for Religious Freedom, which this year hosted 13 moot court teams from nine law schools. The tournament identifies issues pertaining to religious freedom about which students then write briefs and orally argue. The Notre Dame moot court students also travel to Rome every March for an International Religious Freedom Moot Court Tournament.

Css Logo

This year, the Program on Church, State & Society expanded to offer the Rice-Hasson Distinguished Lecture Series, named in honor of late ND Law professor Charles E. Rice, along with ND Law alumni Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson and Mary Rice Hasson. The series kicked off in March with inaugural speaker Mary Ann Glendon, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, and the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

In January, the group also launched a reading group open to all Notre Dame law students. The first selection for discussion was Liberty in the Things of God by Robert Louis Wilken. The Program also offers events and lectures open to the public for those interested in learning more about law and religious freedom.