October 04, 2012
On Thursday, September 27, 2012, the
Center for Law and Religion (CLR) sponsored "Religious Liberty
in the 2012 Election: A Constitution Day Debate" at the Law
School’s Belson Moot Court Room. The debaters were Michael Paulsen,
Distinguished University Chair and Professor of Law at University
of St. Thomas School of Law and co-author of The Constitution
of the United States: Text, Structure, History, and Precedent
(2010), and Andrew M. Koppelman, the John Paul Stevens Professor of
Law at Northwestern University School of Law and author of the
forthcoming Defending American Religious Neutrality
(2013). The debate was moderated by CLR’s Associate Director,
Marc O. DeGirolami.
Paulsen began by reviewing recent United States Supreme Court
cases on religious freedom, in particular, last term’s
Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v.
EEOC, in which the Court announced its support for the
so-called “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination
laws. He argued that the Obama Administration had taken a very
narrow view of religious freedom in that case and predicted that a
second Obama Administration would have less concern for the rights
of believers than a Romney Administration.
Koppelman, for his part, identified what he sees as troubling
trends in recent Supreme Court decisions and urged greater
neutrality on the part of the state in religious matters. Like
Paulsen, Koppelman made predictions for the future of religious
freedom under either a second Obama or a Romney Administration. He
dismissed Paulsen’s worries about the future of religious liberty
in a second Obama term. For Koppelman, the key difference related
to the sorts of judges these two administrations might put on the
courts and the consequences for Establishment Clause doctrine.
The debate concluded with a lively question-and-answer period,
in which members of the audience discussed the need for special
protection for religious associations, the contraception mandate in
the Affordable Care Act, and other issues.
The debate was “a wonderful way for the Law School to
commemorate Constitution Day,” said CLR’s Director,
Mark L. Movsesian. “I’m delighted CLR was able to host such
eminent scholars and present such different perspectives.” The
debate was co-sponsored by the St. John’s chapters of the
American Constitution Society, the
Catholic Law Students Association and
The Federalist Society.