Course Description

601:684. RELIGION AND THE LAW - Doctrine and Advocacy Practicum (3) WI


Revised Course Description


This three-credit course on Religion and the Law focuses on constitutional and other legal questions about religious liberty and the relation of church and state. The course will also include a lawyering component, or practicum, in which teams of students will be matched with public interest organizations across the ideological spectrum working on cutting-edge controversies related to those questions.

The classroom component of the course will cover a range of topics that have become increasingly relevant in our diverse and divided society. We will consider, for example, whether and how the Constitution and certain federal and state statues accommodate persons whose religious obligations conflict with specific otherwise-applicable laws. We will also look at recurring dilemmas arising under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment: What are the limits to state funding of religious schools and other organizations? Why have the courts struck down some forms of religious expression by government but not others? The course will also consider the role of courts, if any, in resolving internal church disputes, including conflicts over church property, religious schisms, and the employment of clergy and other officials. And it will consider several important non-Constitutional areas of law – tort law and the federal tax code, for example – that establish distinct rules for churches and religious persons.

The course practicum will engage students in real legal conflicts and legal work. Team members will discuss questions of substance and strategy with lawyers involved with our partner organizations and will write research memos or other legal documents relevant to the organizations’ ongoing work. The goals of the practicum include enriching the substantive learning in the course, gaining practical insights into the dynamics of litigation, honing research and writing skills, reinforcing professional norms including respect for confidentiality, and cultivating important habits such as punctuality and focused analysis.

This course will qualify for writing credit under the law school rules, and students will also be able to obtain intensive writing credit. Writing in the course may include both the research memos and other documents for our public interest partners and short supplementary reflection papers.