RESCHEDULED: What Should Progressives Think About Religious Freedom?

Laura Underkuffler and Thomas Berg will discuss how far courts should go to make accommodations for religious objectors to social welfare laws and regulations.

Date & Time:

Friday, March 14, 2014
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM


Free and Open to the public. Lunch is complimentary for those who register online.


Room 235, University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis Campus

Approved for 1.0 Continuing- Legal- Education credit.

Among the most hotly contested disputes over religious freedom are those that involve religious objections to social-welfare regulation generally described as politically “progressive.”  Prime examples include the lawsuits by businesses and charitable organizations challenging the federal healthcare mandate to cover contraception, and objections to facilitating same-sex marriages that are brought by charitable organizations, such as Catholic adoption agencies or small businesses, such as wedding photographers.   In this polarized atmosphere some progressives express skepticism whether religious freedom is a valuable principle at all. Meanwhile, some conservatives say that progressivism inevitably assaults religious freedom.   Are political progressivism and broad religious freedom inherently at odds? How far should courts or legislatures go to make accommodations for religious objectors to social-welfare laws and regulations?

Expert Speakers:


Laura Underkuffler is the J. DuPratt White Professor of Law and associate dean for academic affairs at Cornell Law School where she teaches an introductory course in property as well as advanced courses in land-use and property theory.   She has published widely in the United States and abroad in the fields of property theory, constitutional law, and the role of moral decision making in law. She has also been involved in international projects concerning property rights and regime change, and the problem of corruption and democratic governance.


Thomas Berg is the James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of St. Thomas School of Law where he teaches constitutional law.  Berg is one of the leading scholars of law and religion in the United States. He has written more than 30 briefs on issues of religious liberty and free speech in cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts and has often testified to Congress in support of legislation protecting religious freedom.

Mitch Gordon

Moderator: Mitchell Gordon is the Director of Lawyering Skills and Associate Professor of Law at the University of St Thomas School of Law.  Gordon graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School, where he was a director of the National Moot Court program and a member of Minnesota's competition team, which advanced to the national finals. He also clerked at the Minneapolis law firm of Mansfield & Tanick, P.A., and in the Special Litigation Division of the Hennepin County Attorney's office. After law school he joined the Minneapolis law firm of Lindquist & Vennum, P.L.L.P. From 1999 to 2003, Gordon served in the office of Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch as an Assistant Attorney General.

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