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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Religious Freedom and its Limits (Fall 2017)

Course Description

Is the “travel ban” discriminatory against Muslims and does it violate the Establishment Clause and/or the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment?  Are vouchers or other forms of public aid for religious education consistent with the Religion Clauses?  Is it permissible for the government to provide funding to churches and other religious institutions?  Is it permissible for the government, or for public schools, to display religious symbols or conduct religious services?  Does religious liberty require granting exemptions to people who have religious objections to complying with antidiscrimination laws and laws protecting reproductive rights?  Or do such religious accommodations violate the Establishment Clause and other principles enshrined in the Constitution?  These are among the controversies that have exploded in recent years in cases like Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor (where religious nonprofit organizations – and for-profit business owners – have claimed the right to be free from the “contraceptive mandate” imposed under the Affordable Care Act) and, more recently, in challenges to the administration’s executive orders limiting the entry into the United States of travelers from six (originally seven) predominantly Muslim countries. This seminar seeks to provide students with an understanding of the political and legal complexities that surround the current disputes over religious freedom as well as a mastery of the doctrinal tools necessary to resolve them.  We will begin by discussing current law and religion controversies. Together, we will identify the legal issues that need to be researched and the legal arguments that need to be developed in order to determine—and make a convincing case about—how these controversies ought to be resolved.  Each student will pick one particular issue to be the subject of their term paper, which they will work on throughout the semester.

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 2
  • Grading Options: Numerical Only
  • Schedule: Th 9:00 am - 10:50 am
  • Room Number: Room 118/120
  • Exam: Paper
  • Writing Requirement: Yes with submission of the Upper Division Writing Requirement Form.
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: no
  • Participation: Required and graded