John Inazu has been installed as the inaugural Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis. A lecture and a reception to celebrate the occasion were held Sept. 7 in the Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom and Crowder Courtyard in Anheuser-Busch Hall.
Inazu is an expert on the First Amendment, including freedoms of speech, assembly and religion. He earned a doctorate in political science from the University of North Carolina, and his law degree from Duke University.
In 2011, he joined Washington University, where he holds joint appointments in the School of Law and the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, and a courtesy appointment in political science in Arts & Sciences. Inazu teaches criminal law to first-year law students, as well as a class on law and religion and various seminars related to the First Amendment.
His recent book, “Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference,” argues that we can and must live together peaceably in spite of deep and sometimes irresolvable differences over politics, religion, sexuality and other important matters.
We can do so in two important ways, Inazu argues, by insisting on constitutional commitments that honor and protect difference; and by embodying tolerance, humility and patience in our speech, our collective action (protests, strikes and boycotts), and our relationships across difference.
Inazu’s endowed position at Washington University is made possible by a $3 million commitment from former U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth in honor of his wife, Sally Dobson Danforth, and the important role she played in his life and the lives of their children. The position is designated for a tenured faculty member in the School of Law who also maintains a connection to the university’s John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics.
“I am proud to call Sally and Jack Danforth my dear friends and delighted that Sally’s name will be forever connected to Washington University in this important way,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “In addition to their tremendous service on behalf of our country, they have done much over the years to improve this university for our students, faculty and staff. This generous gift is one more testament to their enduring legacy at Washington University.”
“John Inazu is a thoughtful intellectual and an outstanding scholar working on the intersection of religion and politics,” said Marie Griffith, the John C. Danforth Distinguished Professor and director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics. “Now more than ever, we need people to engage issues related to pluralism and religious freedom in our society. John’s work sheds light on a hugely important set of topics, and will be elevated further by this extraordinary gift from Sally and Jack Danforth.”
“John Inazu represents our law school and our university in the very best way possible,” said Nancy Staudt, dean of the School of Law and the Howard and Caroline Cayne Professor of Law. “John has shaped the important national debates on religion and the law, and I look forward to his continued scholarship and teaching in these exciting areas.”
Inazu’s first book, “Liberty’s Refuge: The Forgotten Freedom of Assembly,” published in 2012, seeks to recover the role of assembly in American political and constitutional thought.
Inazu is a senior fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He is the special editor of a volume on law and theology published in Law & Contemporary Problems, and his articles have appeared in a number of law reviews and specialty journals. He has written broadly for mainstream audiences in publications including USA Today, CNN, the Hedgehog Review and the Washington Post.
Inazu was the School of Law’s 2014 David M. Becker Professor of the Year.
Prior to joining the law faculty, he was a visiting assistant professor at Duke University School of Law and a Royster Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He clerked for Judge Roger L. Wollman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and served for four years as an associate general counsel with the Department of the Air Force at the Pentagon.
About Sally D. and John C. Danforth
Sally Dobson Danforth attended Mary Institute in St. Louis before graduating from the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. She went on to attend Sweet Briar College and married John Danforth in 1957.
While John Danforth was practicing law and then serving 26 years in elective office, Sally Danforth’s priority was making a home for their five children, whether in New York, their native St. Louis, Jefferson City, or Washington, D.C.
Over the years, Sally Danforth served on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Washington Society for the Performing Arts, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Alzheimer’s Association, and Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School. She is a founding member of both the Komen Race for the Cure and the Parents Music Resource Center.
John Danforth is a retired American politician who began his career in 1968 as the Attorney General of Missouri and served three terms as United States Senator from Missouri. In 2004, he served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
At Washington University, he serves on the national advisory board for the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics. The center was established in 2010 through the generosity of the Danforth Foundation and seeks to deepen academic and public understanding of religion and politics in the United States.
John Danforth is a partner with Dowd Bennett LLP in St. Louis, and the author of three books, the most recent, “The Relevance of Religion,” released in October 2015.
But it is Sally Danforth who keeps him grounded, he said, and keeps the family, which includes 15 grandchildren, in close touch.
When John Danforth submitted his resignation as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 2004, he wrote, “Forty-seven years ago, I married the girl of my dreams, and, at this point in my life, what is most important to me is to spend more time with her. Because you know Sally, you know my reason for going home.”
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