State Religion Clauses after Trinity Lutheran: Are the States’ Constitutions Unconstitutional?

Lawrence VanDyke
Solicitor General of the State of Nevada

In June of this year, the Supreme Court held, in a 7-2 opinion, that the exclusion of churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion. The Court held that the free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects the freedom to practice religion and subjects laws that burden religious practice to strict scrutiny. Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer.

Trinity Lutheran has been cited as an important victory in the battle to protect religious liberty. Thirty-eight of our states have amendments that “prohibit direct governmental aid to educational institutions that have a religious affiliation.” These so-called “Blaine” amendments were instituted in the late 19th century, and as demonstrated by the Trinity Lutheran case, their reach and enforceability is unclear. Join us as we host Nevada Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke to discuss the Trinity Lutheran case (in which the State of Nevada filed amicus briefs), Blaine Amendments, his efforts in Nevada’s school choice litigation (which involved a Blaine Amendment challenge), and why Blaine amendments may be problematic for reasons that were never squarely addressed in the Trinity Lutheran decision.

Mr. VanDyke has been Nevada’s Solicitor General since 2015. Prior to serving as Nevada’s Solicitor General, Mr. VanDyke was Solicitor General of the State of Montana, and also served as Assistant Solicitor General for the State of Texas. Before public service, he practiced law with Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher in the area of constitutional and appellate law. He served as a law clerk for the Honorable Janice Rogers Brown on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Mr. VanDyke holds both a B.S. and M.A. in Engineering from Montana State University—Bozeman. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.


When:  Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 11:30 a.m. (registration), 12:00 p.m. (lunch)

Where:  Oliver Café at Equinox Sports Club, 1980 Main Street, Irvine, Tel. (949) 
251-6363.  Bring your parking ticket to the luncheon for validation.

Cost: $30/members, $35/nonmembers, $20/students, for lunch and 1 hour of MCLE credit (the Federalist Society is a California State Bar approved provider of MCLE).

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We welcome all interested attorneys and non-attorneys to our events. 

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