Honors at Thomas More College

Institute for Religious Liberty

Mission Statement

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 Thomas More College Institute for Religious Liberty was established by Thomas More College President David A. Armstrong, J.D. in 2015 after several local business 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 Thomas More College 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, PhD, 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.

Previous Events: 2015-16 Academic Year

At the inaugural event in February 2016, Michael Galligan-Stierle, PhD, 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."

The Thomas More College Institute for Religious Liberty in partnership with Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion held their Inaugural Event on Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at the Connor Convocation Center on the TMC 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.

Previous Events: 2016-17 Academic Year

In the second year, Joshua Charles, author of the book Liberty's Secrets: The Lost Wisdom of America's Founders, was the keynote speaker for the Friday, February 17, 2017 academic symposium. Thomas More College's own J.T. Spence, Ph.D. and Hunter Baker, J.D., Ph.D. of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee offered a commentary on Mr. Charles' work after the keynote address.

The Saturday, February 18, 2017 event featured 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 a 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 College 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.

During the 2017-2018 Academic Year, two events are scheduled:

Upcoming Events for the 2017-18 Academic Year

  1. On Wednesday evening, November 8, 2017, we will host 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 TMC. The speakers are:
    1. Dr. Jeffrey Zalar, who holds the Ruth J. and Robert A. Conway Endowed Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Cincinnati.
    2. Dr. Jonathan Cohen, Dean and Associate Professor of Talmud and Halakhic Literature at Hebrew Union College.
    3. Dr. Waleed El-Ansary, University Chair of Islamic Studies, Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice at Xavier University.
  2. On Wednesday evening, January 24, 2018, as a part of our 50th Anniversary Year on the Crestview Hills campus, our IRL event will have a title of "Religious Liberty at a Crossroads," with an emphasis on recent Religious Liberty legal cases, in honor of recently-deceased alumnus and member of the IRL Executive Committee, William T. Robinson III. The case to be featured is the Little Sisters of the Poor Religious Liberty Case but the speakers are experts on all of the related cases from the older Hobby Lobby Case to the more recent Trinity Lutheran and Masterpiece Cake Cases.
    Moderated by Dr. Kathleen Jagger VP For Academic Affairs and Dean of The College, the two speakers are:
    1. Professor Kevin C. Walsh from the University of Richmond School of Law who was the original attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor;
    2. 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.
    3. 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).

The Institute for Religious Liberty is looking for partners to help advance its mission. For sponsorship information, please contact Tony Roderick, Director of Development, at 859-344-3530 or roderia@thomasmore.edu