Does government-mandated contraception coverage violate religious freedom?”

That is the topic of the next “Hot Topics: Cool Talk” forum that will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Monday, April 2, in Room 235 of the University of St. Thomas’ School of Law, located on the university’s downtown Minneapolis campus.

Free and open to the public, the Hot Topics: Cool Talk series is sponsored by St. Thomas’ Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy.

The program is the seventh in a nine-part series that provides a forum for dialogue on current political issues in a context divorced from the heat of a political campaign. Each program features two or more experts respectfully engaging in a civil discourse on a policy issue important to the 2012 election.

The forum’s moderator, Robert Vischer, is professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Law. His scholarship focuses on the intersection of law, religion and public policy, and he is the author of Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State.

The forum’s three speakers, all members of the St. Thomas School of Law faculty, are:

  • Thomas Berg, the James Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy. Berg graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and holds a master’s in religion from the University of Chicago and a master’s in philosophy and politics from Oxford University. He is the author of the law book, The State and Religion in a Nutshell, co-author of Religion and the Constitution, and author of approximately 60 articles in law reviews and religion journals on religious freedom, constitutional law and the role of religion in law, politics and society.
  • Susan Stabile, the Robert and Marion Short Distinguished Chair in Law. Stabile is a noted scholar on topics related to the intersection of Catholic social thought and the law. Her articles have been published in the Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, the Journal of Catholic Social Thought and the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. She is a fellow of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership and an affiliate senior fellow of the St. John’s University Vincentian Center for Church and Society.  A spiritual director who leads retreats and other programs of spiritual formation, Stabile has served on the ministerial staff of St. Ignatius Retreat House in New York.
  • Father Daniel Griffith, faculty fellow of law and chaplain and fellow of the Murphy Institute. A diocesan priest, Griffith is a graduate of the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity, where he received master’s degrees in theology and divinity, and was ordained in 2002. Griffith also is a graduate of St. Thomas, where he studied political science, and of the William Mitchell College of Law.  He currently is teaching the law school course, Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy. He has served as pastor of St. Peter in North St. Paul and St. Edward in Bloomington. He now is serving at Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis, where he will become pastor in July.

A complimentary lunch will be provided to those who register for the forum online. For more information about the series, and to register for the April 2 forum, visit the Murphy Institute website.  The forum has been approved for continuing-legal-education credit.

The remaining forums deal with punishment theory, on April 20, and responsible citizenship, on May 3.