How Justice Alito ’72, the Supreme Court’s Originalists, and Almost All Conservatives Misinterpret the Free Exercise of Religion

Nov 15, 2022, 4:30 pm6:30 pm
Maeder Hall Auditorium 002


Event Description

Vincent Phillip MuñozTocqueville Associate Professor of Political Science and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame

In 2021 Supreme Court case City of Philadelphia v. Fulton, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch called for a reversal of the Court’s leading religious liberty precedent Oregon v. Smith (1990), contending that the First Amendment, properly understood, provides exemptions for religious individuals and institutions from generally applicable laws. In this lecture, Professor Muñoz will argue that these justices are wrong on their own originalist terms and that the Founders’ natural rights constitutionalism does not include a right to religious exemptions. At stake in this debate is not only the meaning of the First Amendment, but our understanding of equality before the law and the proper limitations on state power.  

This event is free and open to the public. 

Vincent Phillip Muñoz is the Tocqueville Associate Professor of Political Science and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame. He is the Founding Director of Notre Dame’s Center for Citizenship & Constitutional Government. He is also the faculty director of ND’s undergraduate minor in Constitutional Studies. Dr. Muñoz writes and teaches across the fields of constitutional law, American politics, and political philosophy with a focus on religious liberty and the American Founding. He won a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to support his forthcoming book on the natural right of religious liberty and the original meanings of the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses, which is scheduled to be published by the University of Chicago Press in 2022.  Articles from the project have appeared in American Political Science ReviewThe Harvard Journal of Law and Public PolicyNotre Dame Law ReviewAmerican Political Thought, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Journal of Constitutional Law.

His first book, God and the Founders: Madison, Washington, and Jefferson (Cambridge University Press, 2009) won the Hubert Morken Award from the American Political Science Association for the best publication on religion and politics in 2009 and 2010. His First Amendment church-state case reader, Religious Liberty and the American Supreme Court: The Essential Cases and Documents (Rowman & Littlefield) was first published in 2013 (revised edition, 2015) and is being used at Notre Dame and other leading universities. His scholarship has been cited numerous times in church-state Supreme Court opinions, most recently by Justice Alito in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (2021) and by both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas in Espinoza v. Montana (2020). An award-winning teacher and a popular lecturer, Dr. Muñoz has spoken at over 75 colleges and universities in the past several years. He received his B.A. at Claremont McKenna College, his M.A. at Boston College, and his Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate School.

Funded by:

Bouton Law Lecture Fund


Lecture Series
An America’s Founding and Future Lecture