Neutrality, Religion or Avoidance: Future of the Establishment Clause Examined

Six legal scholars debated government, religion and the future of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution at a conference hosted by the School of Law on Nov. 3.

The Establishment Clause prohibits Congress from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.” At the conference, The Future of the Establishment Clause in Context: Neutrality, Religion or Avoidance?, legal experts explored the possibilities set forth by three paths into the future of religion in the public square—a new government neutrality, a new relationship of government and religion, and a new understanding of how the Establishment Clause is to be enforced.

Bruce Ledewitz
Bruce Ledewitz

“Many admit that the future of the Establishment Clause is in absolute disarray,” said Duquesne Law Professor Bruce Ledewitz, a constitutional law expert who presented at the conference. “Nobody knows in which direction the Supreme Court is going to go.  The Symposium speakers all took different positions on what the Court’s future course might be and what they think it ought to be.”

Registration was at capacity for the conference. Symposium presenters and their topic of discussion included:


  • Bruce Ledewitz, professor of law, Duquesne University
  • Christopher Lund, assistant professor of law, Wayne State University


  • Samuel J. Levine, professor of law and director of the Jewish Law Institute, Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center
  • Zachary R. Calo, associate professor of law, Valparaiso University


  • Mark C. Rahdert, the Charles Klein Professor of Law and Government, Temple University Beasley School of Law
  • Richard Albert, assistant professor of law, Boston College.

During the first half of the conference, each speaker presented their view and then the pairs (neutrality, religion, justiciability) debated each other. In the second half, the presenters debated each other and answered questions from the audience.

Jane Moriarty, the Carol Los Mansmann Chair in Faculty and Scholarship and associate dean for faculty scholarship, served as moderator for the symposium.

“Professor Ledewitz’ symposium was a terrific event to showcase Duquesne’s focus on faculty scholarship,” said Moriarty. “The issues were cutting-edge and of interest to both the community and the academics, and the mix of alumni and academics in the audience were wonderful participants in the discussion.”

The Future of the Establishment Clause in Context was held in conjunction with a symposium issue of The Chicago-Kent Law Review, which will publish papers based on the scholars’ presentations at the conference.

“This was a fabulous event with top legal scholars from across the nation who specialize in law and religion topics,” said Law Dean Ken Gormley. “Bruce Ledewitz’s opening remarks were both thoughtful and thought-provoking, building on the work he recently completed for his nationally acclaimed book, Church, State and the Crisis in American Secularism.”