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Barrett Lecture on Constitutional Law: Professor Alan Brownstein

Tuesday, November 19

Kalmanovitz Appellate Courtroom, King Hall room 1001
4:00 PM

The 2013 Edward L. Barrett, Jr., Lecture on Constitutional Law will feature Professor of Law, Boochever and Bird Chair for the Study of Teaching of Freedom and Equality, Alan E. Brownstein.

Coercion and Endorsement: Constitutional Challenges to State Sponsored Prayers at Local Government Meetings

Over the last half century, the Supreme Court has struggled to resolve Establishment Clause cases challenging state-sponsored prayers and public religious displays. While these controversies are prominent battlefields in contemporary culture wars and implicate a range of disagreements, for modern constitutional law purposes they involve a doctrinal choice between two competing tests or adjudicatory standards. The Endorsement Test, initially developed by Justice O'Connor in the 1980s, focuses on whether government action places an imprimatur of approval on a particular religion or religion generally, and communicates a message to religious adherents and non-adherents as to their relative status in the political community.  The Coercion Test, championed more recently by Justice Kennedy, examines government conduct to determine whether government is pressuring people to join or participate in religious activities. A case pending before the Supreme Court this term, Town of Greece v. Galloway, dealing with government-sponsored prayers delivered before town board meetings, raises questions of religious endorsement and coercion in a particularly provocative setting - public meetings in which citizens directly petition government decision-makers.

Using the Town of Greece case as a prism, Professor Brownstein will discuss the competing values, including religious liberty and religious equality, that are at stake when the Court interprets the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. He will argue that both the coercion and endorsement tests suggest that it is problematic to have government-sponsored prayers delivered at the beginning of town council meetings. As Professor Brownstein will explain, under our constitutional system government may sometimes involve itself with religion, but when it chooses does so, it must act carefully to ensure that involvement does not violate basic constitutional principles and requirements.  

Professor Alan Brownstein, a nationally recognized Constitutional Law scholar, teaches Constitutional Law, Law and Religion, and Torts at UC Davis School of Law. While the primary focus of his scholarship relates to church-state issues and free exercise and establishment clause doctrine, he has also written extensively on freedom of speech, privacy and autonomy rights, and other constitutional law subjects. His articles have been published in numerous academic journals including the Stanford Law Review, Cornell Law Review, UCLA Law Review and Constitutional Commentary. Brownstein received the UC Davis School of Law's Distinguished Teaching Award in 1995 and the UC Davis Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award in 2008. He is a member of the American Law Institute.

Professor Brownstein has testified on several occasions before various California Senate Committees on legislation promoting religious liberty and bills that raise Establishment Clause concerns. His assistance is often sought by advocacy groups on issues relating to religious liberty and equality. He is a frequent invited lecturer at academic conferences and regularly participates as a speaker or panelist in law related programs before civic, legal, religious, and educational groups. He is the co-author of dozens of Findlaw columns discussing a range of legal issues.

The Edward L. Barrett, Jr., Lectureship on Constitutional Law was established in 1986 to mark the retirement of King Hall's founding dean, Edward L. Barrett, Jr., and the Law School's 20th anniversary.

4:00PM Lecture
5:00PM Reception

MCLE Credit
This activity is approved for Minimum Continuing Legal Education credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of one hour, which applies to the elimination of bias credit. The University of California, Davis, School of Law (MCLE Provider #1347) certifies that this activity conforms to the standards for approved education activities prescribed by the rules and regulations of the State Bar of California governing minimum continuing legal education. Registration for MCLE credit will begin 30 minutes before the start of the lecture.

Please visit for directions to King Hall.

Parking Information
Visitor Permits may be purchased from permit machines located at the entrances to campus parking lots.

This event is free and open to the public. FREE MCLE event. Please click HERE to RSVP. 


For more information, please contact Gia Hellwig at