Richard Garnett

Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law, Director of the Program on Church, State & Society

Richard Garnett

My goal is to examine closely the relationships, and the tensions, among political institutions and religious communities. In the context of American constitutional law, this examination is directed at the First Amendment to the Constitution, which ensures religious freedom—for groups as well as for individuals—in two complementary ways: by protecting the free exercise of religion and by requiring what is often called a separation of church and state.

More specifically, I try to contribute to a richer understanding of what the “free exercise of religion” really means and of how to protect it through law. And, I attempt to explain what is, and is not, the appropriate way to think about the “separation” of church and state.

In my view, the American tradition regards religious freedom as a fundamental human right and an aspect of the common good. An abiding concern with serving the common good is something that distinguishes the Notre Dame Law School and indeed the mission of the University itself. It is also something that is vital to the practice and the profession of law.

The aims of law, after all, are to make it possible for persons and communities to live and flourish together by promoting justice. To achieve these aims, though, the practice of law must be animated by a deep commitment to the bedrock fact that every person matters. The “different kind of lawyer” Notre Dame works to form understands this. A Notre Dame lawyer sees the practice and profession of law as a vocation—a calling—and not just a career. That is why, more than 15 years after I came here, I am still happy and proud to call Notre Dame home.

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