Stratton serves as moderator for law conference
Dr. Lawrence M. Stratton, lecturer of political science and Visiting Stover Constitutional Fellow at Waynesburg University, served as a moderator for a conference recently held by Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. Sponsored by the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy, the conference, “Twenty Years After Employment Division versus Smith: Assessing the Twentieth Century’s Landmark Case on the Free Exercise of Religion and How it Changed History,” recently took place in New York City.
Stratton moderated a panel entitled, “Smith’s Interaction with First Amendment Principles Beyond the Free Exercise Clause.” Stratton was one of 30 legal scholars who took part in the conference.
“The conference was significant because the Smith peyote case is a major Supreme Court case setting the framework of debate about the contours of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause,” Stratton said. “The conference included the prominent legal scholars who both accept and reject the Smith decision and the wave of subsequent cases which have followed in the Federal and State courts.”
The conference marks the twentieth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court case, Employment Division versus Smith, which addressed the First Amendment’s guarantee of the Free Exercise of Religion. The case upheld the guarantee of the Free Exercise of Religion. The decision did not exempt two Native American church members from punitive sanctions for smoking peyote, an illegal substance, while serving as drug counselors. Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion declared that the Free Exercise Clause provides no exemption from generally applicable and neutral criminal laws.
Marci A. Hamilton, Cardozo Law Professor and former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, organized the conference. Professor Hamilton prevailed in the landmark Supreme Court First Amendment case City of Boerne versus Flores, which followed Employment Division versus Smith. Hamilton also served on Stratton’s dissertation committee at Princeton Theological Seminary.
“I appreciated the opportunity to take part in the scholarly conversation about the meaning of religious freedom and the U.S. Constitution,” Stratton said. “I also enjoyed the opportunity to describe Waynesburg University to other conference participants and the keen curiosity and creative spirit which I have found in Waynesburg undergraduates.”
Stratton taught a survey of constitutional law at Waynesburg University as the Visiting Stover Constitutional Scholar last spring. He currently teaches Introduction to American Government and will teach American Political Theory at Waynesburg University. He holds an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University and a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics from the Princeton Theological Seminary.
Stratton has taught politics, ethics, law and religion, among other subject areas at Georgetown Law Center, the University of Pennsylvania, Pepperdine University, Villanova University and Drew University. He is a former clerk to U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia and has written several articles and co-authored two books on both constitutional law and ethics.
The Stover Center for Constitutional Studies and Moral Leadership at Waynesburg University seeks a renewal of American politics, business and culture based upon the values and principles of the Constitution of the United States. For that reason, the Stover Center develops leaders who embrace the moral and constitutional principles that guided the Founding Fathers. The Stover Scholars Program was initiated in the fall of 2007 by Dr. W. Robert Stover.