Since the founding, religious liberty and freedom of conscience have been fundamental to the American constitutional order, whose “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But as American society has grown less religious, its tolerance for traditional beliefs and ritual has diminished. In 2019, religious Americans are facing troubling questions about whether traditional communities of faith can any longer flourish in the United States.
Some Jewish Americans, in particular, worry that government could come to restrict the moral teachings and obligations essential to the Jewish way of life. Will leaders of Jewish institutions be kept from the public square? How should Jewish leaders work to strengthen religious liberty in America? Hear from Judge Neomi Rao, a federal judge appointed this past March to the United States Court of Appeals and Mark Rienzi, President of the Becket Fund, America’s leading legal and educational institute with a mission to protect the free expression of all faiths.
Judge Neomi Rao was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in March 2019. She graduated from Yale College in 1995 and the University of Chicago Law School in 1999. Following graduation, she served as a law clerk to Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and, in the 2001 October Term, as law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court. Between her clerkships, Judge Rao served as counsel for nominations and constitutional law to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. In 2002, she joined the international arbitration group of Clifford Chance LLP in London, England. From 2005-2006, she served as Special Assistant and Associate White House Counsel to President George W. Bush. From 2006 to 2017, Judge Rao was a professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, where she taught constitutional law, legislation and statutory interpretation, and the history and foundations of the administrative state. In 2014, she founded the Center for the Study of the Administrative State, a non-profit Center that promoted academic scholarship and public policy debates about administrative law. In July 2017, she was appointed to serve as the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget. She served in this position until her appointment to the D.C. Circuit.
Mark L. Rienzi serves as President of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and is a Professor at the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law. Professor Rienzi teaches constitutional law, religious liberty, torts, and evidence. His litigation and research interests focus on the First and Fourteenth Amendments, with an emphasis on free speech and the free exercise of religion. His scholarship on these issues has appeared in a variety of prestigious journals including the Harvard Law Review, Fordham Law Review, Emory Law Journal, Notre Dame Law Review, and George Mason Law Review. As a litigator, Professor Rienzi has represented a range of parties asserting First Amendment claims in courts across the country. His writings on constitutional issues have been published the New York Times, Washington Times, and USA Today.