August 04, 2021

On the afternoon of August 3, 2021, the Catholic Law community joined together for a virtual event focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on religious liberty jurisprudence. The program comes as the second in the 2021 Summer Discussion Series as part of an ongoing effort to explore pressing legal questions that have arisen out of the pandemic. For the afternoon’s discussion, Mark Rienzi, Director of the Center for Religious Liberty and Professor of Law at Catholic Law, and President of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, was joined by alumni speaker William Haun ’12, Counsel for The Becket Fund and Nonresident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Rienzi and Haun organized their remarks around the ongoing development of COVID-19 and how it relates to religious liberty—outlining various shifts throughout the pandemic. They particularly highlighted the early stages of the pandemic and the lower courts' deference to the government and the pivot that occurred as the country started to open back up. Rienzi and Haun also noted the impact of specific Supreme Court decisions like Tandon v. Newsum and Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo had on free exercise doctrine. They also spoke more broadly about the standard for free exercise set by Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore. v. Smith and how it might be re-evaluated moving forward.

As the program drew to its conclusion, panelists took questions from the audience moderated by Professor Cara H. Drinan, Professor of Law and Director of Faculty Research. Questions covered a range of topics including the future of Smith, in light of the recent Supreme Court decisions, the Supreme Court’s use of the “shadow docket,” and potential future litigation surrounding vaccination requirements.

You can view a recording of the program below.