Thomas Berg.
St. Thomas Law Professor Thomas Berg (Photo credit: Seventh-day Adventist Church North American Division)

Law Professor Honored for His Work as a Religious Liberty Scholar and Advocate

Law Professor Thomas Berg was recognized with a Religious Freedom Scholar Award by the Seventh-day Adventist Church North American Division for his contributions to the scholarship of religious liberty and his work as an advocate. He received the honor at the 18th annual Religious Liberty Dinner in Washington, D.C., on April 30.

“Professor Berg is showing us the way forward,” said Bettina Krause, editor of Liberty magazine, who presented Berg with his award at the dinner. “His scholarship is providing those of us who work in religious liberty advocacy with concrete, actionable approaches to resolving deep conflicts; conflicts that often seem insoluble.”

Religious Liberty Dinner.
(l-r): Professor Tom Berg; Calvin Watkins, vice president, regional liaison/evangelism, Seventh-day Adventist Church North American Division; Melissa Reid, director of governmental affairs, Seventh-day Adventist Church North American Division; Dr. Shirley Hoogstra, president, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities and Religious Liberty Dinner award winner; U.S. Sen. Susan Collins; Alan Reinach, executive director, Church-State Council and Religious Liberty Dinner award winner; Todd McFarland, deputy general counsel, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and Religious Liberty Dinner award winner; Bettina Krause, editor, Liberty magazine, associate director for public affairs and religious liberty, Seventh-day Adventists Church North American Division; and Orlan Johnson, director of public affairs and religious liberty, Seventh-day Adventist Church North American Division. (Photo credit: Seventh-day Adventist Church North American Division)

Krause was referencing Berg's large body of work, but also his most recent book, Religious Liberty in a Polarized Age (Eerdmans, 2023). The book discusses religious freedom in America during a time of political and social polarization, when the right to practice and express one's faith faces threats from both progressives and conservatives.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who also spoke about Berg during the dinner, highlighted his advocacy (done with three other colleagues) that helped to pass the Respect for Marriage Act in the U.S. Senate in 2022. She was the chief Senate co-sponsor of the bill, which protects the right to same-sex marriage while also protecting religious organizations’ rights to follow their own definition of marriage in their activities.

“Thomas Berg is a respected constitutional law and religious liberty scholar, a background that greatly aided our legislation,” Collins said. “He drafted materials that helped us respond to concerns raised about the implications of the RMA. Moreover, joined by several of his colleagues in academia, Professor Berg drafted a letter explaining that the bill ‘is a good and important step for the liberty of believers’ to follow their views. It explained that the RMA includes ‘specific protections for religious liberty’ and does not ‘deny or alter’ government benefits enjoyed by religious organizations. Professor Berg, your thoughtful legal analysis was instrumental to our success. Thank you.”

Thomas Berg at Religious Liberty Dinner.
(l-r): Calvin Watkins, Tom Berg, Bettina Krause and Orlan Johnson. (Photo credit: Seventh-day Adventist Church North American Division)

Berg is one of the nation’s leading experts on religious liberty and law and religion. He is the author of six books, including a leading casebook, Religion and the Constitution (with Michael McConnell and Christopher Lund, Aspen Publishing). He has written numerous books, book chapters, journal articles, op-eds and shorter pieces on religious freedom, constitutional law and the role of religion in law, politics and society. Berg’s work has been cited multiple times by the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals. He also leads St. Thomas Law’s Religious Liberty Appellate Clinic.

The annual Religious Liberty Dinner is sponsored by the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), North American Religious Liberty Association (NARLA), Liberty magazine and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.