Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr., Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies (ICLRS) and president of the International Consortium on Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS) opened the second Religious Freedom Discussion Series on 7 March 2012 with a lecture entitled “Hosanna-Tabor and its European Counterparts: Comparative Reflections.”
On January 11, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in the most important religious freedom case to come before the Court in decades. In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the Court for the first time reviewed “ministerial exception,” a First Amendment doctrine which all U.S. Circuit courts had used to exempt churches from discrimination claims brought by their employees, but which had never been affirmed by the Supreme Court. In Hosanna-Tabor the Court not only affirmed the doctrine in the strongest terms, but it did so unanimously.
In responding to a request by Counsel for the Petitioner to prepare a Friend of the Court brief in the case, the International Center for Law and Religion Studies was able to draw upon the work of its many international friends, particularly in Europe, in support of the principles of church autonomy ultimately affirmed in Hosanna-Tabor. Cole Durham, himself an international expert in Law and Religion and Comparative Law, has spoken and published widely on this topic. We are privileged to be able to hear from Professor Durham on this timely subject of great importance to religious-freedom supporters worldwide.