Mattone Center for Law and Religion and Journal of Catholic Legal Studies Co-Host Symposium on SCOTUS Public School Prayer Case

Participants in St. John's Law symposium on law and religion.
April 23, 2024

At a recent symposium co-hosted by the Law School’s Mattone Center for Law and Religion and Journal of Catholic Legal Studies at Manhattan’s New York Athletic Club, leading legal scholars convened with a 90-person audience to discuss Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the recent U.S. Supreme Court case on prayer in public schools.

After the program’s moderator, St. John’s Law Professor and Mattone Center Director Mark Movsesian, presented the case, Notre Dame Law Professor Stephanie Barclay explored the Court’s use of history and tradition in Kennedy. Looking to historical analogies, she argued, allowed the Court to avoid being drawn into very high-level abstractions, for example, as to the meaning of coercion, which can very quickly deviate from the original meaning of the Establishment Clause. 

The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law Professor Marc DeGirolami then discussed the Court's use of tradition in the context of the Religion Clauses and more broadly. He described the components of traditionalism in constitutional theory, and discussed what he argued were important challenges to traditionalist interpretation. The program also included remarks from St. John’s Law Dean Michael A. Simons and incoming Dean Jelani Jefferson Exum.

Watch a video of the Symposium

Reflecting on the Symposium he helped to organize as JCLS’ Symposium Editor, Jack Bilbrough ‘24 says, “We're so grateful to all who participated in this collaboration between the student-run JCLS and the newly-renamed Mattone Center for Law and Religion. The presentations sparked interesting discussions about a case that has put a spotlight on religion in the U.S. legal context.” 

JCLS Editor-in-Chief Patrick McKelvey ‘24 agrees, adding, “It was a very enriching experience to have panelists, faculty, students, and alumni come together to explore this important topic at the crossroads of law and religion. As journal members, we’re proud to have been a part of this fruitful dialogue, and hope that the connections between JCLS and the Mattone Center continue to grow."

About the Mattone Center for Law and Religion
 Established in 2010, the Mattone Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s Law provides a forum for studying law and religion from domestic, international, and comparative perspectives with the aim of:

  • Examining the role of law in the relationship between religion and the state

  • Exploring the concept of law in different religious traditions

  • Promoting St. John’s Vincentian mission by encouraging an open dialogue on law and religion in the local, national, and international communities

In addition to hosting academic programs locally and around the world, the Center coordinates the Law School’s law and religion curriculum. It also hosts the Law and Religion Forum, a blog about recent law and religion scholarship and news, and Legal Spirits, a podcast series on law and religion issues in the courts.

About the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies
 Run by students in affiliation with the St. John's Law Review, and known for its first 50 years as The Catholic Lawyer, the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies is a scholarly journal devoted to the study of law and religion in general, and law and Catholicism in particular.