On Tuesday, October 27, 2015, the Law School’s Center for Law and Religion presented a discussion with Hon. Richard J. Sullivan, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, about current and potential issues before the U.S. Supreme Court involving religious freedom.
Judge Sullivan serves on the center’s Board of Advisors. Fellow advisory board member Mary Kay Vyskocil ’83, a partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, graciously hosted the event at the firm’s New York office. The attendees included 50 St. John’s Law students, alumni, and faculty members.
After an introduction by Dean Michael A. Simons, Judge Sullivan and Center Director Mark L. Movsesian discussed a number of current topics in the area of religious accommodations, including the ongoing litigation in the Contraception Mandate cases and the question of tax exemptions for religious organizations. With respect to the former, the conversation turned to the Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, involving for-profit corporations, as well as more recent cases, currently pending at the Court, on the application of the mandate to religious non-profits like the Little Sisters of the Poor. The discussion about tax exemptions focused on the potential impact of Obergefell v. Hodges, the same-sex marriage case, on religious organizations that decline to recognize same-sex marriage.
“These are important questions about the boundaries of religious freedom that Americans have been debating since the time of the Founding,” Professor Movsesian said. “They don’t have easy answers. It was wonderful to hash them out with Judge Sullivan, and to consider some of the many implications of the Court’s recent decisions. We’re so grateful to Mary Kay for hosting—it was a perfect setting.”
Jordan Hummel '12, one of the center’s first student fellows, found the discussion timely and engaging. “I enjoyed hearing Judge Sullivan, Professor Movsesian, and the other contributors explain how religious liberty is being construed by our nation’s highest court,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see how the Center for Law and Religion has grown in the short time since I held my fellowship, and to meet the new student fellows. I look forward to being part of future center programs and initiatives.”
The Center for Law and Religion provides a forum for the study of law and religion from domestic, international, and comparative perspectives. It presents a range of academic conferences and public events annually, and it produces the Center for Law and Religion Forum, an award-winning blog in the field. For more information, please contact the Center for Law and Religion at [email protected].