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Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics

The Constitution & Religion

Several faculty members focus on religious freedom and the Constitution in teaching, writing, and public commentary. For students interested in the interaction of legal issues and religion, this is an area of utmost importance. Some courses focus solely on these issues; many incorporate them in the course of broader study. Consult the academic catalog for descriptions of specific courses.


Ambassador Douglas W. Kmiec
, one of America's best known scholars and popular commentators on the law, holds the Caruso Family Chair in Constitutional law at Pepperdine Law School. He recently returned to Pepperdine after serving as the United States Ambassador to Malta. A wide-ranging writer and engaging speaker, his scholarly research spans legal and non-legal subjects, from the Constitution and the federal system, to land use and the organization of America society. He is also a frequent guest on national news programs, such as Nightline, the Newshour, and NPR's Talk of the Nation, analyzing constitutional questions. Ambassador Kmiec has spoken at multiple Nootbaar Institute fora and conferences, including "The Roberts Nomination, Judges, and Religious Faith". Ambassador Kmiec also contributed an article on Catholic Natural Law to the collection "Law and Faith: How Different Religions View American Law", edited by the Nootbaar Institute Director Robert F. Cochran, Jr.


Shelley Ross Saxer
is the Director of the Byrne Judicial Clerkship Institute at the School of Law. She enjoys writing articles that address topics where land use issues intersect with constitutional concerns. She has published articles dealing with liquor store overconcentration in urban areas, the use of religious institutions for homeless shelters, conflict between local governmental units over commercial land use decisions that impact surrounding communities, eminent domain, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, sex offender property disclosures and residency restrictions, water law, and zoning conflicts with First Amendment rights. Professor Saxer has been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.


Mark S. Scarberry
focuses on religious liberty issues. He serves as moderator of the Advisory Committee on Litigation for the national Presbyterian Church (USA), the committee that advises the church with regard to joining or initiating amicus briefs in important cases. Professor Scarberry wrote an amicus brief in the Doe v. Madison School District case in the Ninth Circuit. He has taught First Amendment seminars, and a Religion and the Constitution course. His other main academic focus is bankruptcy law. In addition to teaching and writing in that area, he prepared the training materials and helped to train attorneys to provide pro bono help to low income consumer bankruptcy debtors as part of the L.A. County Bar Association/Public Counsel Debtor Assistance Project.


Barry McDonald teaches courses in constitutional law, First Amendment law, and intellectual property law. Some of these courses include Individual Rights, First Amendment Law and Comparative Constitutional Law. He is also a recognized scholar in the area of First Amendment law. Since joining the Pepperdine faculty in 2000, he has published several articles and essays on the law governing freedom of expression and religion in such prominent journals as the Emory Law Journal, Northwestern University Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Ohio State Law Journal and Washington & Lee Law Review. Professor McDonald currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Section on Law and Religion of the AALS.


Michael Helfand
is the Associate Director of the Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies. His primary research interests are law and religion, arbitration, constitutional law, and contracts. In particular, he has worked extensively on the intersection of group rights and the law, including religious arbitration, religious commercial conduct, church autonomy, Equal Protection Clause jurisprudence, and political theories of toleration. Professor Helfand has published articles in the New York University Law Review and the George Mason Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, and the Journal of Law & Religion."