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First Recipient of the Huffman Scholarship Award Announced

August 31, 2020

Professor Jim Oleske is the first recipient of the annual Huffman Scholarship Award, which recognizes outstanding faculty scholarship. Emeritus Dean and Professor James Huffman endowed the award to be given annually to a faculty member chosen by a three-member faculty committee, based on scholarship written the year prior.

Professor Oleske was selected for his paper, Free Exercise (Dis)Honesty, which was published in the Wisconsin Law Review.

“Dean Huffman has given so much to Lewis & Clark, and his endowment of this award is another reminder of his rich legacy at our law school,” said Oleske. “It’s an honor to be the first recipient of the Huffman Scholarship Award, and it’s extremely gratifying that my colleagues on the selection committee deemed my article worthy of this recognition.”

Professor Oleske teaches Constitutional Law, Tort Law, and Law & Religion at the law school. Oleske was the 2014 recipient of the Leo Levenson Award for excellence in teaching, and his research focuses on the intersection of religious liberty and other constitutional values. From January-June 2019, he conducted research in the United Kingdom as a Fulbright Scholar based at Cardiff University’s Centre for Law and Religion.

“In endowing this award, Jim Huffman is acknowledging the ongoing commitment to scholarship by our faculty” stated Dean Jennifer Johnson. “It is very fitting that Jim Oleske is our first recipient, recognizing his dedication to his research and analysis of constitutional law and religious liberty. Congratulations!”

In Free Exercise (Dis)Honesty, Professor Oleske examines the Supreme Court’s less-than-forthright treatment of precedent as it has repeatedly and fundamentally shifted its position on religious-exemption rights. Oleske explains how the Court may be poised to shift its position yet again through a creative rewriting of case law, and he urges the Court to take a different path by developing a more honest free exercise jurisprudence.

In discussing the article’s relevance to the Supreme Court’s upcoming term, Oleske noted that “the justices recently granted review in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case that will provide the Court with the opportunity to either reimagine or overrule its landmark 1990 decision on exemptions, Employment Division v. Smith. One of the arguments in Fulton draws on a dubious interpretation of Smith that I examine in Part II of the article. Another argument in Fulton—that the Court should squarely overrule Smith—is consistent with the prescription I offer in Part III of the article. However, the doctrine I suggest the Court adopt in place of Smith differs significantly from that proposed by the Fulton petitioners.”

Oleske’s analysis in Free Exercise (Dis)Honesty is also relevant to dozens of suits filed across the country by churches challenging COVID-19 regulations. The same interpretation of Smith that is being pressed in Fulton, and that Oleske calls into question in Free Exercise (Dis)Honesty, has been explicitly championed in the COVID litigation by the Trump Administration and was explicitly adopted in Justice Kavanaugh’s dissent at the preliminary injunction stage in Calvary Chapel v. Sisolak.

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