This is welcome news. Next semester, Stanford Law School will start the nation’s first law school clinic focusing on religious liberty. Here’s the announcement from the Stanford website:
The Religious Liberty Clinic is the newest addition to the Mills Legal Clinic, and is presently the only clinic of its kind in the country. The clinic will offer participating students a dynamic, real-world experience representing a diverse group of clients in disputes arising from a wide range of religious beliefs, practices, and customs in a variety of circumstances. Students will learn in class and apply in practice the laws affecting religious liberty, whether statutory or constitutional, and will be expected to counsel individual or institutional clients and litigate on their behalf with technical excellence, professionalism, and maturity.
During the term, students can expect to handle a discrete accommodation project—e.g., represent a prisoner, student, or employee facing obstacles in the exercise of his or her faith—and likely also participate in a longer-term project involving religion in the public square—e.g., represent a small church, synagogue, or mosque with zoning issues, or a faith-based group seeking access to public facilities. Opportunities to draft amicus briefs may also arise. The clinic will involve administrative, trial, and appellate practice—though time constraints may not permit each student to work in all areas—united under the theme of “religious liberty for all.” Because the clinic is a new and unique venture, students may also help in marketing and outreach efforts to the religious and wider communities.
The clinic will be directed by James Sonne, formerly of Ave Maria Law School.
The fact that a law school of Stanford’s prominence is starting a clinic focusing on religious liberty suggests how important this field is becoming. A few years ago, Stanford hired Michael McConnell, one of America’s foremost law and religion scholars, to direct its Constitutional Law Center. It looks like Stanford is making a serious play to become a leader in law and religion studies in the United States.
Mark Movsesian is Director of the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University.