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Covid and the Courts: Current threats to Religious Freedom


Because of the Covid pandemic, many jurisdictions have placed limits on religious worship. Protests that such limits infringe the religious liberty guarantees of the First Amendment have reached the Supreme Court. What are the permissible limits on religious worship? How can we expect the Supreme Court to rule before its terms ends in June?

Mark Rienzi is Professor at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, and President of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Mark teaches constitutional law, religious liberty, torts, and evidence. He has been voted Teacher of the Year three years in a row, and he is widely published, including in the Harvard Law Review. He is Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Columbus School of Law.

Mark has broad experience litigating First Amendment cases. He represented the winning parties in a variety of Supreme Court First Amendment cases including Hobby Lobby, Wheaton College, and Holt. In January 2014, Mark successfully argued before the Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley, a First Amendment challenge to a Massachusetts speech restriction outside of abortion clinics, winning the case 9-0. Mark and his colleagues at Becket won several important religious liberty cases at the Supreme Court in the past year, including Our Lady of Guadalupe, Little Sisters of the Poor, and Agudath v. Cuomo.

William Saunders is a graduate of the Harvard Law School, who has been involved in issues of public policy, law and ethics for thirty years. A regular columnist for the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Mr. Saunders has written and spoken widely on these topics. He is the Director of the Program in Human Rights for the Institute for Human Ecology at The Catholic University of America. (For information about his innovative Master of Arts in Human Rights, go to Saunders works closely with Chinese dissident and CUA Distinguished Fellow, Chen Guangcheng, on human rights issues, and he is co-director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Columbus School of Law.

Mr. Saunders’ new book, Unborn Human Life and Fundamental Rights: Leading Constitutional Cases Under Scrutiny, was published in 2019.