Separation of Church and State

Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley: Churches, Playgrounds, & the First Amendment

Short video featuring Richard Garnett
Richard W. Garnett April 12, 2017

Does the exclusion of a church-run education center from receiving state funding violate the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses? Prof. Richard Garnett of the University of Notre Dame Law School explains the issues at stake in the upcoming Supreme Court Case of Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley. Oral argument is April 19, 2017.

Debate—State Blaine Amendments - Event Audio/Video

2017 Annual Western Chapters Conference
David A. Cortman, Steven Green, Carlos T. Bea, Lisa Ezell February 06, 2017

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley. The case questions whether the exclusion of churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of Free Exercise of Religion and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Debaters will address this case along with the Blaine Amendment implications.

This panel was part of the 2017 Annual Western Chapters Conference at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA on January 28, 2017.

Debate—State Blaine Amendments
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

  • David A. Cortman, Senior Counsel and Vice President of U.S. Litigation, Alliance Defending Freedom
  • Prof. Steven Green, Fred H. Paulus Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Religion, Law & Democracy, Willamette University College of Law
  • Moderator: Hon. Carlos Bea, U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit
  • Introduction: Lisa Ezell, Vice President & Director of Lawyers Chapters, The Federalist Society

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
Simi Valley, CA

Views and opinions expressed by the Federalist Society are not necessarily shared by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) the Future of Religious Liberty? - Event Audio/Video

2016 National Lawyers Convention
John C. Eastman, Richard W. Garnett, William P. Marshall, Vincent Phillip Munoz, Michael Uhlmann, William L. Saunders November 23, 2016

In his seminal decision in Employment Division v. Smith in 1990, Justice Antonin Scalia held that the First Amendment typically does not authorize courts to grant religious exemptions from generally applicable laws. This decision altered the 1963 Sherbert v. Verner test which had given courts the power to strike down any law that (1) if it substantially burdened religious practice, was not (2) based on a compelling government interest, and (3) narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Rather, Scalia said that religious adherents should look to the political process for accommodation, and he consistently supported the constitutionality of such accommodations. In response to Smith, a primary means of such accommodation has been the passage of state and federal Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs), which codify the Sherbert test. However, in the wake of Obergefell v. Hodges (or Hobby Lobby), RFRAs have become the focus of intense political controversy. What do these laws actually do in practice? Are they a good idea? Would a different approach to protect religious liberty be better?

This panel was held on November 17, 2016, during the 2016 National Lawyers Convention in Washington, DC.

Religious Liberties: Is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) the Future of Religious Liberty?
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. 
State Room

  • Dr. John C. Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law & Community Service, Chapman University Fowler School of Law; Senior Fellow, The Claremont Institute
  • Prof. Richard W. Garnett, Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor, Concurrent Professor of Political Science, Notre Dame Law School
  • Prof. William P. Marshall, William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law
  • Prof. Vincent Phillip Muñoz, Tocqueville Associate Professor of Religion & Public Life, University of Notre Dame
  • Moderator: Prof. Michael M. Uhlmann, Professor of Politics and Policy/SPE, Claremont Graduate University
  • Introduction: Mr. William L. Saunders, Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs and Senior Counsel, Americans United for Life

The Mayflower Hotel
Washington, DC

Church Playgrounds & Blaine Amendments - Podcast

Religious Liberties Practice Group Podcast
Thomas C. Berg, Christopher C. Lund, Martin S. Lederman August 17, 2016

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley. The case focuses on religious liberties and the Establishment Clause, and whether the First Amendment allows states to disfavor religious institutions. The Missouri Constitution has a clause against the use of public funds for religious entities, reading “that no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion…” In this case, The Department of Natural Resources turned down a request by a church-run preschool for a grant for new rubber ground in their playground. Does the exclusion of churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program violate the constitution? Our experts join us today to discuss the upcoming case and to give some background on the relevant precedent in this area of law.


  • Prof. Thomas C. Berg, James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of Saint Thomas School of Law
  • Prof. Martin S. Lederman, Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Prof. Christopher C. Lund, Associate Professor of Law, Wayne State University