Notre Dame Hesburgh Lecture: Donald Kommers, 'Religion and the Constitution'

Religion and religious institutions are never far from the surface during a Presidential election.  Candidates and parties stake out positions on various issues with religious undertones.  A particularly important topic this year is the extent to which aid may, or may not, be given to religious institutions.  Underlying the debate is the important question of Supreme Court appointments.  Sadly, many either lose sight of the prescriptions of our Constitution or wildly misinterpret it.  Donald Kommers has a lifetime of experience addressing Constitutional questions, and is gifted in explaining nuance in a way that everyone can grasp.  We seek to give everyone a better understanding of the law of the land on this vital question.Dr. Kommers will first introduce the audience to the words and original purposes of the religion clauses of the First Amendment and then examine the Supreme Court’s approaches to the interpretation of these provisions.  His focus is mainly on the extent to which government can provide financial and other assistance to religious institutions and on the divisions within the Supreme Court on this issue.  He will conclude his lecture by examining recent changes in the Supreme Court’s membership and exploring what these changes mean for the direction of contemporary church-state jurisprudence.

The lecture is the seventh in a series offered by the Notre Dame Club of Knoxville – East Tennessee.  The club is pleased to be joined by co-sponsors University of Tennessee Department of Religious Studies and The John XXIII Catholic Center at UT.

The lecture is free of charge and open to the public.  Dr. Donald Kommers will speak for about 45 minutes with a question and answer session to follow.  A reception will follow, also open to the public, in the University Center.  Parking is available in the University Center parking garage for a nominal fee.

Donald P. Kommers has been a member of the faculty of the University of Notre Dame since 1963, serving in the Department of Political Science, where he has been a chaired professor since 1992. He joined the faculty of the Notre Dame Law School in 1975, becoming the second director of the University’s Center for Civil and Human Rights.  Professor Kommers’ publications include 10 books, 23 major book chapters, and 67 articles, mainly in the areas of public law – American, German, and comparative – and German politics.  His next book, Red, Black, and Gold: Germany’s Constitutional Odyssey, will be published in 2009.

Tuesday, 07 October, 2008



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