ND Law’s Program on Church, State & Society receives transformational gift

Author: Kevin Allen


For more than a decade, the Program on Church, State & Society has enhanced the distinctive Catholic mission of Notre Dame Law School. Through legal scholarship and meaningful conversations, the program highlights the crucial role that religious institutions play in the social order and the vital importance of protecting religious freedom for individuals and institutions alike.

Thanks to the generous benefaction from an anonymous donor, the Program on Church, State & Society is poised to further establish Notre Dame Law School as the leader in the area of law and religion. This endowed gift will permanently support the program as it prepares and trains students to defend religious institutions and religious freedom, produces scholarship, and nurtures dialogue and public engagement.

“The Program on Church, State & Society has enriched our understanding of religious freedom and the ways our legal system interacts with religious institutions,” said G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School. “This generous gift will strengthen the program’s ability to produce groundbreaking scholarship, foster dialogue, and prepare advocates in an area of the law that is essential to human flourishing.”

Ricehasson 2021
Mary Ann Glendon, center, delivered the Program on Church, State & Society’s inaugural Rice-Hasson Distinguished Lecture in November 2021. She is pictured here with Professor Richard Garnett, left, and Dean G. Marcus Cole.

Richard Garnett, the Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corp. Professor of Law, has served as faculty director of the Program on Church, State & Society since its founding in 2010.

“Religious schools, hospitals, universities, agencies, and communities contribute to the common good in countless ways. The goal of the Program on Church, State & Society is to lift up these contributions, and to prepare talented and thoughtful lawyers to represent these contributors,” Garnett said. “Thanks to our benefactor’s generosity, the program will contribute in new and exciting ways to Notre Dame’s mission and to the scholarly exploration of the ways law structures the relationships among church, state, and society.”

The Program on Church, State & Society — in collaboration with the Law School’s larger Religious Liberty Initiative — organizes a variety of opportunities for scholars, students, and the public.

This gift will allow the program to continue to offer and expand paid summer fellowships to select Notre Dame Law School students who want to intern at religiously affiliated organizations and law firms. Placements for summer fellows have included the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities, the Catholic University of America, and the American Indian Catholic Schools Network, as well as archdiocese offices in several cities.

Davidspicer Grotto
David Spicer ’20 J.D. was one of the Program on Church, State & Society’s summer fellows in 2019.

David Spicer ’20 J.D. worked at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as a summer fellow in 2019. Today, he is employed at the USCCB as a policy advisor.

“I’m indebted to the Program on Church, State & Society — and its generous benefactors — for the opportunity to work at the USCCB while in law school,” Spicer said. “Otherwise, I never would have made the lasting connections and gained the valuable experience necessary to secure such an impactful position.”

In addition, the gift will enable Notre Dame Law School to create new fellowships, which will be named in memory of longtime Professors Edward J. Murphy and Robert E. Rodes Jr. The Murphy Fellowship will provide financial aid to recruit the nation’s top law-school applicants, with a demonstrated interest in church-state questions. The Rodes Fellow will be a position for a visiting assistant professor who teaches and researches in the area of law and religion. The gift will also create more opportunities for faculty-student partnerships and research assistant positions.

In November, the Program on Church, State & Society launched the Rice-Hasson Distinguished Lecture Series as its flagship annual event and celebration. The lecture series is named in honor of late Notre Dame Law Professor Charles E. Rice and alumni Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson and Mary Rice Hasson. Mary Ann Glendon, a professor emerita at Harvard Law School and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, delivered the inaugural lecture.

Another offering of the Program on Church, State & Society is the Associates Program — an opportunity for Notre Dame Law School students to explore issues of law and religion by taking part in reading groups, attending special events with faculty fellows and lecturers, and learn about internships and career opportunities with partner organizations.

Alec Afarian, a member of the Law School’s Class of 2023, has been a Church, State & Society summer fellow and participated in its Associates Program.

Second-year law student Alec Afarian was a Church, State & Society summer fellow in 2021 and has been a participant in the Associates Program. Afarian and other students in the Associates Program met to discuss works such as Pierre Manent’s Natural Law and Human Rights and Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed.

“During my fellowship, I worked extensively with attorneys who are making decisions every day that require informed, conscientious, and humble thought. The Associates Program provided both the arena to grapple with ideas in the classroom and the chance to put the considerations into action,” Afarian said.

“The Program on Church, State & Society is a cogent example of Notre Dame Law School taking its Catholic mission seriously,” Afarian added. “The program’s generosity is what allowed me the opportunity to contribute to legal work that supports a great number and variety of religious institutions, and I am grateful to all who make this possible. It brings me great joy to know that more Notre Dame Law School students will be able to have opportunities similar to those that have been afforded to me.”

Learn more about the Program on Church, State & Society at churchstate.nd.edu.