New Constitutional Studies Initiative to examine the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion

New initiative is part of the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at the Charles Widger School of Law

VILLANOVA, Pa.— Students and scholars will explore the significance of the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, as well as the relationship between economic freedom and civil society, through a new Constitutional Studies Initiative. The initiative—which will operate under the auspices of the Charles Widger School of Law’s Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy—is funded by a $1.69 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.

Augmenting the work of the McCullen Center, the Constitutional Studies Initiative will bring judges, policymakers and scholars to campus to discuss topical issues in constitutional law. Additional programming will include a lecture and debate series that models civil discourse about constitutional issues; faculty workshops and reading groups; support for faculty and student research; and student internship opportunities with organizations focused on freedom of religion and speech issues. The Initiative’s Director will also oversee the design of new courses and concentrations. Future projects may include a First Amendment Law Student exchange focusing on matters related to freedom of speech and freedom of religion and support for hiring visiting faculty.

The Constitutional Studies Initiative was conceived and is being led by Michael P. Moreland, JD, PhD, University Professor of Law and Religion and Director of the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy. A Villanova faculty member since 2006, Dr. Moreland is a renowned scholar of constitutional law, torts, bioethics and religious freedom. He is frequently sought for commentary at national and international conferences, in the media, and before Congress.

“The Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion have remained focal points of academic scholarship, debate and conversation since the inception of our nation, and are reignited with each new generation,” remarked Mark C. Alexander, Arthur J. Kania Dean of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. “The new Constitutional Studies Initiative will guide and challenge current and future Villanova students as they explore these fundamental rights. We are grateful to the Charles Koch Foundation for helping to make Dr. Moreland’s vision a reality.”

“This grant will enable the McCullen Center to expand our programming on vital issues regarding First Amendment freedoms at a time of great interest in those subjects and to support a range of student and faculty working in these areas,” said Dr. Moreland.

In addition to the initial support for the Constitutional Studies Initiative, the grant agreement with the Koch Foundation includes the potential for an additional $4.125 million in funding. Such increased financial support could expand the programming of the Constitutional Studies Initiative and fund additional teaching support for the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) initiative in the University’s Honors Program. The PPE initiative helps students become transformative leaders for the 21st-century global environment by giving them the opportunity to study the philosophical and theological approaches to human flourishing and the political and economic dimensions of freedom and justice.

Founded in 2015, the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy builds upon the University’s Augustinian Catholic mission, serving as a hub for academic programming on emerging advocacy issues in law and religion. Among the McCullen Center’s 2018-19 events were a colloquium in Rome with a keynote address by Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., of the Supreme Court of the United States; a public lecture on originalism and constitutional interpretation by Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; and the Law School’s annual Giannella Lecture with Nicole Stelle Garnett, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School.

McCullen Center programming scheduled for the 2019-20 academic year includes lectures on religious freedom by Robert Louis Wilken, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity emeritus at the University of Virginia; on freedom of speech by Keith Whittington, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University; and on Islamic law by Intisar Rabb, Professor of Law and Director of the Program in Islamic Law at Harvard Law School.

About Michael Moreland, JD, PhD: Michael Moreland was appointed University Professor of Law and Religion and Director of the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy in 2017. Dr. Moreland joined the Villanova Law faculty in 2006 and served as Vice Dean from 2012 to 2015. At Villanova, he has taught Torts, Evidence, Bioethics and the Law, Advanced Torts, Constitutional Law II (First Amendment and Equal Protection), Justice and Rights (1L elective), and seminars in law and religion.

   Dr. Moreland has published articles in leading legal, public policy and medical journals, including Notre Dame Law Review, Journal of Intensive Care Medicine, Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy and Law and Contemporary Problems. His chapters on law, ethics and religion have been featured in numerous books, including titles published by Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press.

   Dr. Moreland was a Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame and the Mary Ann Remick Senior Visiting Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture from 2015 to 2017. He was the Forbes Visiting Fellow at Princeton University in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions during academic year 2010-11.

   Dr. Moreland received his BA in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame, his MA and PhD in theological ethics from Boston College, and his JD from the University of Michigan Law School. Following law school, Professor Moreland clerked for the Honorable Paul J. Kelly Jr., of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and was an associate at Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington, DC, where he represented clients in First Amendment, professional liability, and products liability matters. Before coming to Villanova, he served as Associate Director for Domestic Policy at the White House under President George W. Bush, where he worked on a range of legal policy issues, including criminal justice, immigration, civil rights, and liability reform.

About Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law: Founded in 1953, the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law provides broad-based legal education that is grounded in academic rigor, practical hands-on training and a foundation in business that prepares graduates for diverse and rewarding legal careers. The Law School, which is accredited by the American Bar Association, offers six in-house clinics and more than 150 externship opportunities that immerse students in the real-world application of their legal skills. Villanova is home to Centers of Excellence—the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy; the David F. and Constance B. Girard-diCarlo Center for Ethics, Integrity and Compliance, the John F. Scarpa Center for Law and Entrepreneurship; and the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law—which provide students the opportunity to pursue innovative, interdisciplinary legal fields through study, practical experience and mentorship.