Religious liberty is the first freedom articulated in the U.S. Bill of Rights, and Pope Francis has said it “remains one of America’s most precious possessions,” adding that “all are called to be vigilant ... to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”

Established in 2020, Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Initiative promotes religious freedom for people of all faiths through scholarship, events, and the Law School’s Religious Liberty Clinic.

“Without freedom of conscience — to believe, and then to live our lives as our beliefs require us — nothing else matters.” – Dean G. Marcus Cole



The Religious Liberty Initiative draws upon the expertise of a diverse community of scholars, advocates, and faith leaders from Notre Dame Law School’s faculty and beyond.

The initiative is directed by Stephanie Barclay, a First Amendment expert who researches the role democratic institutions play in protecting minority rights, particularly at the intersection of free speech and religion.

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Religious Liberty Students 2020

Student Involvement

Equipping the next generation to defend religious freedom is of central importance to the Religious Liberty Initiative. The initiative will provide law students with numerous opportunities to learn about relevant case law and gain experience with research, writing, and litigation on real-world cases. 

The first student cohort has helped file amicus briefs in several cases during the 2020-21 academic year.

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Stephaniebarclay Library

Religious Liberty Clinic

With the receipt of a transformational gift from Matt and Lindsay Moroun and family, Notre Dame Law School will put its rich tradition of religious liberty scholarship into practice by creating the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Clinic.

The clinic will train lawyers to defend religious freedom by pursuing claims in trial courts as well as appeals up to and including the Supreme Court.

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Initiative files amicus brief in support of Maine families in school choice case

The brief represents elementary and secondary schools from Islamic, Jewish, and Catholic faith backgrounds.


Professor Stephanie Barclay featured in Notre Dame’s ‘Women Lead’ series

The Religious Liberty Initiative’s director talked about her path to becoming a leading First Amendment scholar.

Oakflat Drnosie

Initiative supports Apache Stronghold in effort to protect sacred site in Arizona

A copper mine would destroy Oak Flat, a place where the Apache people gather for prayer and religious ceremonies.

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Oak Flat Arizona

Video: Protecting Oak Flat and Other Indigenous Sacred Places

On April 29, panelists discussed current litigation related to tribal homelands, possible political solutions, and other potential issues on the horizon.

Rli Empoweringwomen Video

Video: Empowering Women Through Religious Liberty

On March 25, women from a variety of faith communities — including Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, and Native American — shared their perspectives.

Basilica Covid

Video: Coronavirus and the Curtailment of Religious Freedom

Mark Hill QC, a London-based barrister and religious liberty expert, spoke about how responses to Covid-19 have affected the enjoyment of religious liberty.

Religious Liberty Summit

The Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit will be an annual gathering of the foremost thought leaders on religious liberty. The summit will stimulate conversations between scholars, advocates, and religious leaders about the future of religious liberty in the United States and around the world.

Each year, the Notre Dame Prize for Religious Liberty will be presented to an individual for achievement in preserving religious liberty. 

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Marcuscole Welcomeweek2020