April 20, 2021

On April 20, 2021, Catholic Law hosted a virtual Faith in Action event that featured alumnus William Haun ’12, Counsel for Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. In his talk, “Not Lost but Found: Finding Freedom in Submission to God,” Haun spoke about his career—from his time as a law student at Catholic Law to his work at Becket—and how religious liberty litigation represents faith in action. Beyond the biographical description of his career in religious liberty litigation, Haun also underscored the importance of his own faith in his daily life and vocation.

Haun began the program by drawing attention to the title of the event, highlighting that while freedom and submission are often seen as dichotomous to one another, he is of the mind that the formative role religious institutions play in teaching one to set one's own ambitions aside is essential to preserving freedom. Haun connected this insight to a quote from the Becket Fund’s namesake, Thomas Becket (Saint Thomas of Canterbury). Haun explained how, as Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket's conversion away from self-serving ambition to defending religious liberty conflicted with the King of England's efforts to ensconce state control over the church's functions. Haun then shifted to focus more specifically on his passion for and commitment to a career in religious liberty. He noted how his time at Catholic Law intersected with a shift in religious liberty jurisprudence toward institutional protections, and how he was subsequently shaped by his time in private practice—seeking opportunities to sharpen advocacy skills he would later apply to religious liberty cases. The program concluded with a Q&A segment in which there was further discussion regarding freedom's prerequisites, how to maintain focus through faith, religious institutions vs. American individualism, and defending religious liberty principally by exercising it with confidence.

Since joining Becket in 2019, Haun has drafted briefs supporting a faith-based foster agency defending its ministry in the Supreme Court of the United States (Fulton v. City of Philadelphia), argued before the Supreme Court of Texas on behalf of a diocese defending its right to speak transparently about its clergy (Diocese of Lubbock v. Guerrero), successfully defended Orthodox Jewish schools and synagogues against discriminatory lockdown orders, and assisted litigation on all manner of religious exercise nationwide. Prior to joining Becket, Haun practiced law at two international law firms, Shearman & Sterling LLP and Hunton & Williams LLP (now Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP). He also previously served as a law clerk to Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Judge Claude M. Hilton of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. He also was an attorney-advisor to an administrative law judge at the U.S. Department of Labor. Haun’s writing experience includes a book chapter co-authored with a former member of Congress, and articles on constitutional law and policy appearing in the Catholic University Law Review, National Affairs, Law & Liberty, Forbes, National Review Online, Public Discourse, The Washington Post, First Things, and other outlets.

The Faith in Action series was founded to address the impression that the legal profession and faith should be kept separate. The series will return again in the fall of 2021.

You can view a recording of the webinar below. (Note: The Christmas Day sermon mentioned in this talk was written by T.S. Eliot for the character of Thomas Becket in Murder in the Cathedral, not delivered by Becket himself.)