RICHARD O'SULLIVAN ANNUAL
The New Great Awakening of Religious Freedom in America Today
John Witte, Jr. Woodruf University Professor, McDonald Distinguished Professor, Faculty Director,
Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University.
Please find poster here (PDF)
Tuesday September 26th 2023
Please RSVP on Eventbrite
Organised by Law & Justice, the Christian Law Review and the
University of Notre Dame
Twenty years ago, American religious freedom was in trouble. The United States
Supreme Court had weakened the First Amendment considerably, and religious
freedom claims were often subordinated to sexual liberty and other rights claimants.
States routinely denied funds and benefits to religious parties and removed traditional
religious symbols and ceremonies from public life. Leading academics castigated
religious group rights claimants given recent charges of sexual abuse and financial
fraud. In 2000, religious freedom was a second-class right.
No longer! The past decade has seen a great awakening of American religious freedom,
led by the United States Supreme Court. In more than two dozen cases since 2012, the
Court has strengthened the First Amendment to strike down public regulations and
policies that discriminated against religion. It has granted religious individuals and
groups exemptions from general laws that substantially burdened religious conscience.
And it has built strong new protections for the religious worship of prisoners, students,
and teachers, and against state efforts to remove religious symbols, ceremonies, and
statuary from public life.
Decisions of the US Supreme Court are not only influential in other counties but also
evoke much interest and discussion. One example is the recent decision in Dobbs v.
Jackson Women's Health Organization which reversed Roe v Wade. This lecture will
thus be of interest to all those concerned with religious freedom not only in America but
This Lecture will map and measure this new great awakening of religious liberty but also
warns about the ample challenges that remain.
John Witte, Jr. is Woodruff University Professor of Law, McDonald Distinguished
Professor of Religion, and Faculty Director of the Center for the Study of Law and
Religion at Emory University. He has published 45 books and 300 articles in 15
languages, and has delivered 425 lectures worldwide, including recently the Gifford
Lectures at Aberdeen.