“Law and economics” and “law and religion” are important areas of study in legal academia, but they have largely remained separate fields of inquiry.

Villanova University School of Law aims to bridge the gap by looking at both religious and economic freedom in a new and broader framework.

Villanova has received $200,000 from the John Templeton Foundation to start the Libertas Project, which will consist of a series of summer workshops and conferences for law professors, judges, policymakers and academics from other disciplines trying to expand the way that religious and economic freedom are viewed in the law. Instead of simply looking at how religious and economic freedom has been treated by the courts, the project will examine how those two areas are necessary for a free society and comprise a human good.

“This really came out of how the legal profession is engaging questions of religious and economic freedom,” said Villanova Vice Dean Michael Moreland, who will direct the project. “I thought that a lot of the debate was driven by Supreme Court cases and constitutional law doctrine. That’s important, but I thought there could be a richer conversation.”

While the workshops will not be geared towards law students, the new ideas, research and articles that emerge could broaden the way that issues of religious and economic freedom are taught at law schools, Moreland said. He hopes that the Libertas Project—which is slated to last two years—will serve as a pilot for a permanent center at Villanova that will host ongoing research and classes.

Topics that the workshops may cover range from health care reform to the intersection of church and state, he said. “I aspire to change the way a cohort of law practitioners and policymakers think about religious and economic freedom, so when they teach our address these issues, they offer a new approach.”

The John Templeton Foundation supports research by scientists, theologians, philosophers and others into the “big questions of human purpose and ultimate reality,” according to the organization. John Templeton, who was a pioneer in the area of mutual funds, established the foundation in 1987.

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