Religious Liberty Clinic

With the receipt of a transformational gift from Matt and Lindsay Moroun and family, Notre Dame Law School put its rich tradition of religious liberty scholarship into practice by creating the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Clinic in 2020.

The Religious Liberty Clinic protects not only the freedom for individuals to hold religious beliefs but also their right to exercise and express those beliefs and to live according to them. In only its first year of operation, the Religious Liberty Clinic has represented individuals and organizations from an array of faith traditions to defend the right to religious worship, to preserve sacred lands from destruction, to promote the freedom to select religious ministers, and to prevent discrimination against religious schools and families. 

In addition to defending religious exercise wherever it is curtailed, the Religious Liberty Clinic advances and advocates for the critical presence of religious expression, religious institutions, and religious believers in public life. 

The Law School appointed Stephanie Barclay as an associate professor to teach and generate scholarship related to the initiative as well as help launch the groundbreaking clinic that will train future Notre Dame lawyers to defend religious freedom by pursuing claims in trial courts as well as appeals up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court.

The clinic is the cornerstone of the broader Religious Liberty Initiative advanced by G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson Dean of the Law School.

Clinic Staff

John Meiser

Supervising Attorney, Religious Liberty Clinic

Francesca Genova Matozzo

Legal Fellow, Religious Liberty Clinic

Laura Sniadecki

Legal Assistant, Religious Liberty Clinic

Visit the People page for a full list of Religious Liberty Clinic staff and faculty.

Cases

Agudath Isr. of Am. v. Cuomo - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed a set of briefs representing Muslim organizations and scholars in defense of Jewish groups who have been shut down by discriminatory COVID-19 closures in New York City.

Apache Stronghold vs. United States of America - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief in favor of religious liberty protections for Oak Flat, an Indigenous sacred site in Arizona being threatened with destruction.

Carson v. Makin - The case challenges Maine’s exclusion of private religious schools from the state’s educational tuition assistance program.

Columbus City School District et al. v. State of Ohio - Public school districts in Ohio attempted to challenge the constitutionality of the longstanding EdChoice Scholarship Program because it allows religious schools to participate. The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Religious Liberty Initiative in support of the State of Ohio's motion to dismiss.

Emad v. Dodge County - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals case Emad v. Dodge County. In Emad, plaintiff Mohamed Salah Ahmed Emad was denied permission to engage in congregate religious worship and prayer outside of his cell, two practices required of him by his Muslim faith.

Gordon College v. DeWeese-BoydThe Religious Liberty Initiative filed the amicus brief on behalf of Benedictine College of Atchison, Kansas, and Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio — two Catholic institutions that share characteristics in common with Gordon College as deeply religious institutions of higher education that directly integrate their faith into all their educational programs.

Groff v. DeJoy - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to grant certiorari in Groff v. DeJoy. In Groff, a Postal Service worker is seeking an accommodation under Title VII that would allow him to observe his Sabbath by not working on Sundays. The Third Circuit upheld the denial of that accommodation under an older Supreme Court case, TWA v. Hardison, which relieves employers of the need to provide religious accommodations if doing so would impose "more than a de minimis" cost on the business. The petition asks the Court to overturn Hardison.

Kennedy v. Bremerton Sch. Dist. - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court in support of private religious exercise and expression in public schools, arguing that the Endorsement Test causes schools to improperly suppress protected religious practice.

Landor v. Louisiana Department of Corrections and Public Safety - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals case Landor v. Louisiana Department of Corrections and Public Safety, representing Bruderhof, Sikh, Muslim, and Jewish groups. The brief asserts that monetary damages should be considered “appropriate relief” under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). In Landor, plaintiff Damon Landor, a devout Rastafarian, had his religious rights stripped away by state officials when he was forced to cut his dreadlocks in violation of his sincerely held religious beliefs.

McNeary and Deaton v. Council for Better Education, et al - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus behalf of EdChoice Kentucky, which represents a broad coalition supporting parental choice. The Clinic’s brief was filed in the Kentucky Supreme Court and seeks to ensure that parents in Kentucky will have access to the educational choices for their children provided through Kentucky’s Education Opportunity Account Program.

Morris v. Centura Health - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief at the Colorado Court of Appeals on behalf of the Catholic Medical Association and Coptic Medical Association of North America. The amici sought to defend the fundamental right of health care professionals to practice medicine in accordance with their religious beliefs and to preserve a place for individuals and institutions of all faiths in the medical profession.

Payne-Elliott v. Archdiocese of Indianapolis - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Los Angeles of Lebanon and the Orthodox Church in America in defense of the fundamental principle that churches and religious bodies must be free from government interference “in matters of faith and doctrine and in closely linked matters of internal government.”

Peltier v. Charter Day School - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, requesting that certiorari be granted in Peltier v. Charter Day School. In Peltier, the Fourth Circuit held that a publicly funded charter school in Leland, North Carolina, is a “state actor” for purposes of federal law even though it was operated by private individuals. 

Ramirez v. Collier - On November 9, 2021, the Houston Chronicle published an editorial written by John Meiser, supervising attorney of Notre Dame Law School’s Religious Liberty Clinic, and Thomas Hellenbrand, a third-year law student and member of the 2021-2022 Religious Liberty Initiative student cohort. The piece is about Ramirez v. Collier, which the U.S. Supreme Court heard on November 9. The case’s plaintiff, John Henry Ramirez, is a convicted murderer on death row who is asking the state of Texas to allow his pastor to pray over him and touch him during execution.

Shavelson v. California Department of Health Care Services - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of two organizations of Christian healthcare professionals - the Christian Medical and Dental Associations and the Coptic Medical Association of North America - opposing an effort to expand California’s physician-assisted suicide law to include euthanasia. The brief seeks to ensure that California’s decision to outlaw euthanasia is upheld in order to guard against the grave harms that euthanasia would threaten to the medical profession, to the many thousands of religious believers who practice in it, and to the availability of healthcare in California.

Shurtleff v. Boston - This case that asks the U.S. Supreme Court to hold that government officials may not exclude religious expression from the public square, and the Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief in support of Shurtleff.

Smith v. Ward - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief to assert that all people — including those who are incarcerated — have a fundamental right to live in accordance with their religious beliefs. The case involves a Muslim man who is incarcerated in Georgia. Smith has been fighting the prison system in Georgia for more than 10 years in an attempt to gain permission to wear a full-length beard, as his faith requires.The brief was filed in support of a petition asking the Supreme Court to review and reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit’s decision in the case.

Thai Meditation Ass’n v. City of Mobile - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief in support of the Thai Meditation Association of Alabama, which seeks to build a Buddhist meditation center on a piece of land that it owns in Mobile, Alabama. The amicus brief states that the district court incorrectly interpreted the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), a federal law that protects against zoning and land-use decisions that inhibit religious exercise.

Walker v. Baldwin - The Religious Liberty Clinic filed an amicus brief in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals case Walker v. Baldwin, representing Bruderhof, Sikh, and Muslim groups. The brief asserts that monetary damages should be considered “appropriate relief” under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). In Walker, plaintiff Thomas Walker, a devout Rastafarian, had his religious rights stripped away by state officials when he was forced to cut his dreadlocks in violation of his sincerely held religious beliefs under threat of disciplinary action.

Other Media

Live Chat with Marcus Cole

Dean G. Marcus Cole discussed Notre Dame Law School's Religious Liberty Initiative and other topics with Vice President for University Relations Lou Nanni in the video below. The portion about the Religious Liberty Initiative begins at 10:10.