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Religious Liberty Clinic to open at Stanford Law School

On Jan. 14, the Stanford Law School will launch the Religious Liberty Clinic, the nation’s only center that enables law students to represent clients fighting legal battles pertaining to religious freedom.

This new clinic will allow students to defend cases involving disputes regarding religious beliefs and practices under the tutelage of participating professors with expertise in the field of religious freedom. In 2012, the Stanford Law School appointed James A. Sonne, an expert in religious law, to direct the program, which will be housed in the school’s Mills Legal Clinic.

During the clinic, students will help represent individuals and associations filing cases on grounds of infringement on religious liberties, in addition to taking classes that instruct them on how to deal with such cases.

“Part of what we are trying to do is show our students and our community how religious liberty is a natural right that is for all of us and that, all too often, religious liberty disputes are really debates about the merits of the particular religious practice involved rather than the liberty,” James A. Sonne, the clinic’s founding director, said on Wednesday. “We want to show that this is something for everybody, regardless of your religious background and practice.”

The clinic was funded in part by a $1.6 million gift from the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The official launch of the clinic will include a panel discussion on the future of religious liberty featuring Sonne, Judge Carlos T. Bea of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Michael W. McConnell, the Richard and Frances Mallery Professor of Law at the Stanford Law School, among others.

The new clinic will be one of eleven clinics at the Mills Legal Clinic, a Stanford Law School in-house group that operates as a single law firm.

– Molly Vorwerck