To advance the American concept of religious freedom as an unalienable right and the protection of this right for all people.
Beginnings of the Institute
The Institute for Religious Liberty was established by Thomas More President David A. Armstrong, J.D., in 2015 after several local businesses and educational leaders, including representatives from Hebrew Union College, discussed the need to celebrate and educate others about the constitutional privilege and right to freely worship and practice religion. According to President David A. Armstrong: “There is no better place to advance and explore that unalienable right than here on our campus as we challenge our students of all faiths to examine the ultimate meaning of life, their place in the world, and their responsibility to others.”
“Religious Freedom is part of the warp and woof of our nation,” said Dr. Gary P. Zola, who represents Hebrew Union College on the Institute’s Steering Committee. “In light of contemporary events that capture the headlines daily, it is difficult to identify a more salient and timely subject to explore in a forum of this sort.”
Headed by Executive Director, Raymond G. Hebert, Ph.D., Dean of the College Emeritus, the Institute strives to accomplish its mission through education and dialogue in the form of academic symposia and lectures featuring internationally renowned speakers.
2015-16 Academic Year
Inaugural event – February 2016
The Thomas More University Institute for Religious Liberty, in partnership with Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, held an Inaugural Event on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016 at the Connor Convocation Center on the TMU Crestview Hills campus at 7 p.m. in the evening. The event featured two religious thought leaders: U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom Rabbi David Saperstein, and Archbishop of Louisville and the President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops the Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D. While in attendance at this event, Michael Galligan-Stierle, Ph.D., President/CEO of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, commented that, “Of the nearly 1,000 scholarly centers and institutes at Catholic universities, some of which look at religion and politics or religion and law, Thomas More College is the only one I know of with a clear and sharp focus on religious liberty.” For photos from this event, please click here.
2016-17 Academic Year
Academic Symposium – February 2017
On Friday, Feb. 17, the IRL presented Joshua Charles, author of the book Liberty’s Secrets: The Lost Wisdom of America’s Founders, as the keynote speaker. Thomas More University’s own J.T. Spence, Ph.D., and Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D., of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., offered a commentary on Mr. Charles’ work after the keynote address.
Saturday, Feb. 18, the Symposium continued featuring a panel discussion on the crucial linkage between religious liberty and economic freedom moderated by Joshua Charles. Kevin E. Schmiesing, Ph.D., a research fellow for the Acton Institute and well-known author on Catholic social thought and economics, was the keynote speaker on day two of the Symposium. Kevin Brown, Ph.D., Asbury University, Sister Mary Kay Kramer, CDP Thomas More University Alumna and adjunct professor, and Brett Greenhalgh, President, Cincinnati Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter day Saints and founding member of the Institute for Religious Liberty’s Executive Committee served as commentators. For photos from this event, please click here.
2017-18 Academic Year
Religious Liberty: Common Origins an Interfaith Dialogue – November 2017
Wednesday evening, Nov. 8, the IRL hosted three distinguished scholars for an interfaith dialogue featuring the three Abrahamic traditions: Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim. Moderated by Dr. Catherine Sherron, Chairperson of the Philosophy Department at TMU, the speakers included Dr. Jeffrey Zalar, who holds the Ruth J. and Robert A. Conway Endowed Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Jonathan Cohen, Dean and Associate Professor of Talmud and Halakhic Literature at Hebrew Union College, and Dr. Waleed El-Ansary, University Chair of Islamic Studies, Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice at Xavier University.
Religious Liberty at a Crossroads – January 2018
On Wednesday, Jan. 24, the IRL presented “Religious Liberty at a Crossroads,” in honor of recently-deceased alumnus and member of the IRL Executive Committee, William T. Robinson III. This event emphasized recent Religious Liberty legal cases, in particular the Little Sisters of the Poor Religious Liberty Case. The speakers included experts on all of the related cases from the older Hobby Lobby Case to the more recent Trinity Lutheran and Masterpiece Cake Cases. Dr. Kathleen Jagger VP for Academic Affairs and Dean of The College moderated the event which included Professor Kevin C. Walsh from the University of Richmond School of Law who was the original attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor; Ilya Shapiro, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies for the Cato Institute and Editor-in-Chief for the Cato Supreme Court Review. He is also the co-author of Religious Liberties for Corporations? Hobby Lobby, the Affordable Care Act, and the Constitution, and Professor Frederick Gedicks holds the Guy Anderson Chair, one of three endowed chairs at Brigham Young Law School. He is widely published on law and religion, constitutional law, and constitutional interpretation, including two books, The Rhetoric of Church and State: A Critical Analysis of Religion Clause Jurisprudence (Duke University Press, 1995), and Choosing the Dream: The Future of Religion in American Public Life (Greenwood Press, 1991) (with Roger Hendrix). For more information and photos of this event, please click here.
Click here to see information on the next IRL event.
The Institute for Religious Liberty is looking for partners to help advance its mission. For sponsorship information, please contact Institutional Advancement, at 859-344-3344 or email@example.com