First Amendment Studies

Freedom of Religious Expression

Presented by the BB&T Dialogue Series on Free Speech

A Panel Discussion

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

5:30 PM

LOCATION: College of Liberal Arts Building (CLA) 1.302B 


DOUGLAS LAYCOCK - Professor of Law, University of Virginia

MARCI A. HAMILTON - Professor of Law, Yeshiva University

JOHN CORVINO - Professor of Philosophy, Wayne State University

Panelists will consider such questions as:

  • How different is religious expression from other types of expression? Should religious speech be treated differently from political speech? from artistic or commercial speech?
  • Can commercial activities (of a photographer or a floral decorator, for instance) sometimes qualify as speech? 
  • Recent battles seem to pit gay couples’ Equal Protection rights against religious business owners’ rights to religious and expressive freedom. Can a proper understanding of free expression help us cut through this morass?
  • One man’s religious speech is sometimes another man’s hate speech – in such cases, whose demands should legally prevail?
  • If a religious organization enjoys public benefits (subsidies, use of government buildings, etc.), may its speech be restricted?

Related Free Speech Essay Contest


Douglas LaycockDOUGLAS LAYCOCK, a law professor at the University of Virginia, is one of the nation's leading authorities on the law of religious liberty. His other principal area of research and expertise is the law of remedies. Before joining Virginia's faculty in 2010, Laycock taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, and for over two decades, UT Austin.

Laycock has published scores of articles concerning religious liberty, co-edited the collection Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty, and is the author of Religious Liberty – Volume I: Overviews and History and Volume II: The Free Exercise Clause. (Two further volumes are in progress.) He is also the author of the leading casebook Modern American Remedies and the award-winning monograph The Death of the Irreparable Injury Rule, among numerous additional publications.

Professor Laycock has testified frequently before Congress and has argued many cases in the appellate courts (including the Supreme Court). His views are frequently cited in popular media, and he has written for all the major news organizations. He earned his B.A. from Michigan State University and his J.D. from the University of Chicago. 

Laycock is vice president of the American Law Institute, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the 2009 winner of the National First Freedom Award from the Council on America's First Freedom. 

Marci HamiltonMarci A. Hamilton is a professor at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. A leading church – state scholar, she also serves as the Academic Curator for the National Constitution Center’s 2015 Religious Liberty Exhibit and as a Senior Fellow in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania.  

Hamilton is author of the books God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty; an earlier version, God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law; and Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children. She is co-editor of Fundamentalism, Politics and the Law (2011).

Hamilton took her BA from Vanderbilt University, earned Masters degrees in both English and Philosophy at Penn State, and her JD at the University of Pennsylvania. Hamilton clerked for Judge Edward R. Becker and for US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. In 1997, she successfully challenged the constitutionality of the still controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) at the Supreme Court in Boerne v. Flores.

Hamilton’s other major area of work has concerned the rights of children victimized by sexual abuse, and she is a leader in the movement to eliminate statutes of limitations in sex abuse cases, having testified and advised legislators in numerous states on these issues.

Hamilton has received the 2015 Religious Liberty Award, the Freethought Heroine Award, and the National Crime Victim Bar Association’s Champion of Civil Justice Award.   

John CorvinoJohn Corvino is a professor and Chairman of the Philosophy Department at Wayne State University in Detroit. He is the co-author (with Maggie Gallagher) of Debating Same-Sex Marriage and the author of What’s Wrong with Homosexuality? Corvino is currently working on the book Debating Religious Liberty, Tolerance, and Bigotry (with Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson co-authoring the counterpoint). 

A graduate of St. John’s University, Corvino earned his Philosophy PhD at UT, specializing in the thought of David Hume. In recent years, his work has focused largely on issues surrounding homosexuality. His scholarly articles include “Same-Sex Marriage and the Definitional Objection,” “Job Discrimination and Gay Rights,” and “Missing Staircases: Same-Sex Marriage and the Needs of Children.”

A public intellectual, Corvino has spoken at over 200 campuses on issues of sexuality, ethics, and marriage. His YouTube videos have received over a million views. Corvino has been published in such venues as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Advocate, the Huffington Post, The New Republic, and Commonweal. For many years, his column “The Gay Moralist” appeared weekly at

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