Hannah Clayson Smith joined the International Center for Law and Religion Studies as Associate Director in 2023. Hannah has been involved with the Center throughout her legal career: she was a law student research assistant to Professor Cole Durham when the Center was founded in 2000; she later served as a Senior Fellow, on the International Advisory Council, and as the National Coordinator for the Religious Freedom Alliance Council.
Hannah joins the Center following two clerkships at the U.S. Supreme Court for Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and a distinguished decade of service as Senior Counsel at Becket Law. Hannah brings to ICLRS an unparalleled record of service to religious liberty. She was a member of the legal teams that secured victories in key U.S. Supreme Court religious liberty cases, including Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, Holt v. Hobbs, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and Zubik v. Burwell (the Little Sisters of the Poor case). She has contributed to over 25 Supreme Court briefs and represented more than 13 major faith groups including Anglicans, Assemblies of God, Baptists, Catholics, Hindus, Hutterites, Jews, Latter-day Saints, Lutherans, Muslims, Russian Orthodox, Santeros, and Sikhs.
Hannah has received numerous awards for her religious freedom advocacy, including BYU’s Alumni Achievement Award, the J. Reuben Clark Law Society’s Women-in-Law Leadership Award, and the Center for Constitutional Studies’ James Madison Award. As a law student, she received the J. Reuben Clark Award and the Law Faculty Award for Meritorious Achievement and Distinguished Service.
Hannah has testified twice before Congressional committees on religious freedom issues: first, before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of then-US Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, analyzing his free exercise and establishment clause jurisprudence; and second, before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. She has briefed policymakers on religious freedom at the White House, U.S. Capitol, State Department, the American Bar Association, the National Constitution Center, the Newseum, the Heritage Foundation, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. Her television, newspaper, and radio appearances include CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, C-Span, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, AP, Forbes, NPR, and BBC. Her opinion editorials have appeared in US News & World Report, NY Daily News, Daily Signal, Fox News, NRO, SCOTUSblog, and Deseret News. She has addressed audiences at Harvard Law, Princeton University, Stanford Law, Columbia Law, Penn Law, Georgetown Law, BYU Law, and Central European University.
Hannah received her BA from Princeton University, concentrating in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. At BYU Law School, she was elected to the Order of the Coif and served as Executive Editor of the BYU Law Review. Following law school and in between clerkships, Hannah was an associate in private practice at national law firms in Washington D.C.
Hannah served as a full-time French-speaking missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France and Switzerland. She serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Religious Freedom Institute and on the Board of Advisors of the National Museum of American Religion. Hannah and her husband John are the parents of four wonderful children: Gladys Woodruff, Lucy Pratt, George Albert, and John Henry.