Religious Freedom and the Common Good

religious freedom

The spring symposium of the University of St. Thomas Law Journal

Date & Time:

Friday, March 23, 2018
9:00 AM - 4:25 PM
Friday, March 23, 2018; 9 a.m. to 4:25 p.m.



University of St. Thomas School of Law


6 hours of standard CLE credits pending

Challenges to religious freedom have become more prominent and intense in recent years, both in the U.S. and abroad. The conflicts involve both individuals and nonprofit religious organizations, of varying faiths, and laws on matters from nondiscrimination to healthcare to national security. Arguments over these questions typically treat religious freedom as a matter of personal individual autonomy. But religious freedom may have another important dimension: the common good. Indeed, in an era of increasing skepticism toward many religious-freedom claims, the defense of religious freedom may increasingly rely on showing that it preserves space for religious groups to benefit individuals and society.

Social scientists have done considerable research on the asserted contributions of religion and religious organizations for individual believers, for recipients of social services, and for society. But what are these contributions, and how well established are they? Moreover, what relationship do they have to religious freedom in the American tradition? Can religious freedom be justified in part based on its contributions to the common good, and how would such arguments affect the scope of religious freedom?

To address these questions, this conference brings leading social scientists together with a variety of legal scholars, advocates, and policy experts. Among the topics will be the contributions of religious organizations to social services, the founders' views of religion's societal effects, the benefits and risks of religious freedom for African-Americans, the role of religious freedom in countering terrorism, and the causes and consequences of religious-freedom restrictions in various nations.

Conference papers will be published in the University of St. Thomas Law Journal and, in shorter form, in other venues.


  • 8:30-9:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast
  • 9:00-9:15 a.m. Welcome and Introductions, Dean Robert K. Vischer, Professor Thomas Berg, Symposium Editor Dane Knudsen
  • 9:15-9:35 a.m. Byron Johnson, The Need for Research on Effective Compassion
  • 9:35-9:55 a.m. Anthony Picarello, Taking the ‘Sum Total’ of the Common Good in Religious Freedom Discourse
  • 9:55-10:15 a.m. Melissa Rogers, Lessons Learned From Government Service
  • 10:15-10:40 a.m. Panel Discussion and Q&A
  • 10:40-10:50 a.m. Break
  • 10:50-11:10 a.m. Mark Hall, America’s Founders, Religious Liberty, and the Common Good
  • 11:10-11:30 a.m. Jacqueline Rivers, Benefits and Burdens of Religious Freedom: the African American Perspective
  • 11:30-11:55 a.m. Panel Discussion and Q&A
  • 12:00-12:30 p.m. Mass
  • 12:30-1:30 p.m. Lunch: Brian Grim, The Socioeconomic Contribution of Religion to U.S. Society
  • 1:45-2:05 p.m. Stanley Carlson-Thies, The Common Good Needs Robust Institutional Religious Freedom
  • 2:05-2:25 p.m. Sahar Aziz, The Racial Contours of U.S. Religious Freedom: The Case of Muslims
  • 2:25-2:45 p.m. Angela Carmella, The Establishment Clause and the Common Good
  • 2:45-3:10 p.m. Panel Discussion and Q&A
  • 3:10-3:20 p.m. Break
  • 3:20-3:40 p.m. Dane Mataic, Promises, Practices, and Consequences of Religious Freedom: A Global Overview
  • 3:40-4:00 p.m. Thomas Berg, Religious Freedom and the Common Good: A Summary of Arguments and Issues
  • 4:00-4:30 p.m. Panel Discussion and Q&A

This event is cosponsored by the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion; the University of St. Thomas Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy; and the Religious Freedom Institute.

All programs offered by the University of St. Thomas shall be readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. For details, call (651) 962-6315.