Democracy & Religious Freedom
2005 Winter Quarter


The following are the primary academic activities of the program, aimed at honing your critical thinking, speaking and writing skills:

Reading. You will be expected to read the assigned material carefully and analytically.

Case Analysis. Using the Socratic method, we will analyze the major court decisions regarding religious liberty: what were the specific legal issues before the court, what was its holding, what was its rationale and how did it change First Amendment law? One dictionary definition of the Socratic method: "instruction by questions and answers, as adopted by Socrates in his disputations, leading pupils either to a foreseen conclusion or to contradict themselves." This, instead of lectures, is the standard method of instruction used in law schools. While it is quite effective to help students develop their critical thinking skills, it can be quite intimidating in the hands of unforgiving instructors. In this class, we will use a benign version of the Socratic method, hopefully avoiding its menacing tendencies. Only if you come to class unprepared will you likely feel ineffectual or distressed.

Seminar. This is different from case analysis. For one thing, we will not be using the Socratic method, which is strictly controlled and directed by the faculty member. Second, in seminar we will be emphasizing issues, and hopefully students will be in control most of the time. Always come to seminar well prepared so that you can be in control.

Writing. The following writing will be required:

Case Briefs. You will be required to maintain a notebook in which you "brief" each major case we read. "Brief" here does not mean a lengthy writing as in a legal brief. To brief a case means to succinctly summarize each of the following, preferably using one sentence for each: Who were the parties to the case? What is the issue (legal question) involved? What was the holding (decision) of the court? What was its rationale? In the law workshop, you will be taught how to do a case brief.

Critical Online Discussion on Law and Religion. Each of you will be part of an online asynchronous (message board) discussion group (of 8 students). Your online critical discussion will be based on readings assigned in Feldman's Law & Religion: A Critical Anthology.  In the first workshop meeting, you will receive specific technical instruction on how to use Web Crossing, the medium we will use to post critical comments and responses.

Appellate Brief. As part of the program's Appellate Advocacy Project, you will be required to write a formal appellate brief on an actual freedom of religion case recently decided by the U.S. Courts of Appeal or a state supreme court and reviewable by the United States Supreme Court. This appellate work will be collaborative, with each student teaming up with another student to serve as "co-counsel" for either the petitioner or the respondent in the assigned case. You will learn how to write the different components of the brief in workshops throughout the quarter.

Oral Arguments. Also as part of the Appellate Advocacy Project, you, your co-counsel, and the opposing counsel will present oral arguments on your case before a panel of judges of the Evergreen Supreme Court. Your oral arguments will be based on the written arguments you will have made in your appellate brief. You will also have the opportunity to serve as a judge to hear your peers’ oral arguments and to render a decision in their case. This all may sound scary, but by the time it comes for you to give your oral argument at the end of the quarter, you will be well prepared. This will be a collaborative activity with lots of help along the way.

Final Examination. The final week of class there will be a written final examination. It will consist of an essay question and/or hypothetical case involving freedom of religion issues. You will be asked to decide the case. Don’t try to cram for this test; it won’t work. If you do your academic work well throughout the quarter, you will be more than ready to render a decision with stellar legal analysis!

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