John Inazu

John Inazu


Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion

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Inazu’s scholarship focuses on the First Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion, and related questions of legal and political theory. His most 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.

In the media

Close the Churches

The public-health evidence makes clear that houses of worship should limit their gatherings, whether mandated or simply encouraged by government officials, writes John Inazu.

Stories

Judge Barrett’s religion not a confirmation issue

Judge Barrett’s religion not a confirmation issue

Questions about Amy Coney Barrett’s religious affiliation and beliefs have dominated public discussion since President Trump announced that she was his pick to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. While her Catholicism is considered controversial by some, should it impact her confirmation? A Washington University in St. Louis law professor weighs in.
Amy Coney Barrett, Handmaids and Empathy for the Unfamiliar

Amy Coney Barrett, Handmaids and Empathy for the Unfamiliar

“How do we affirm and extend the ethic that welcoming religiously diverse people, nurturing positive relations among them, and facilitating their contributions to the nation is part of the definition of America?” When it comes to the religious practices of our fellow citizens, the answer to that question begins with a commitment to empathy and charity rather than bigotry or ignorance.
Living faithfully in a world of difference

Living faithfully in a world of difference

In a society that is increasingly diverse yet less tolerant, how can Christians live faithfully while respecting those whose beliefs are radically different? A Washington University in St. Louis scholar says before we can find common ground with others, we must start by acknowledging and being comfortable with our own beliefs that make us different.
Close the Churches

Close the Churches

As the Christian author Andy Crouch recently advised, one of the best ways to demonstrate that love now is by suspending physical gatherings, including worship services—for the sake of our neighbors.
America’s Most Under-Appreciated Right

America’s Most Under-Appreciated Right

Americans of all political stripes can choose to exercise the right of assembly as a peaceable but firm reminder that e pluribus unum was always more aspirational than embodied, knowing that the many must still work to live together in spite of their differences.
Democrats Are Going to Regret Beto’s Stance on Conservative Churches

Democrats Are Going to Regret Beto’s Stance on Conservative Churches

Our nation’s politicians can choose to make that possibility more or less likely with their rhetoric and policies in the years to come. Threatening the loss of tax exemption to hundreds of thousands of religious organizations, including many that serve the most vulnerable in our society, is not the way to go.
Crime and punishment

Crime and punishment

Two students in John Inazu’s first-year “Criminal Law” class embodied the lessons taught during the class about theories of punishment, questions of whether criminal justice can remedy injustice and issues of equity in sentencing.
Why I’m still confident about ‘Confident Pluralism’

Why I’m still confident about ‘Confident Pluralism’

The deep divisions in our society are not going away. But in the midst of our differences, Christians can model tolerance, patience, and humility with our neighbors. We can bear witness to the faith, hope, and love of the gospel. We can be confident in our own beliefs as we engage charitably in a world of difference.
The challenges of religious diversity in a university context

The challenges of religious diversity in a university context

One day, a law professor and a visiting scholar took a walk in St. Louis’ historic Forest Park. A friendship, partnership and a unique class called “Religion, Politics, and the University” followed, which takes a deep dive into how a diverse democracy can develop and be successful in a pluralistic society.
The public house as public forum

The public house as public forum

Without public spaces for debate and discussion, our ideas and our expressions stay in our private spaces and we don’t have opportunities to engage with each other, argues John Inazu, the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law & Religion.
Washington People: John Inazu

Washington People: John Inazu

John Inazu, associate professor of law, discusses his research on the concept of “confident pluralism,” the idea we can and must live together peaceably in spite of deep differences over politics, religion, sexuality and other important matters.
WashU Expert: ‘Thoughts and prayers’ for San Bernardino highlight our deep differences

WashU Expert: ‘Thoughts and prayers’ for San Bernardino highlight our deep differences

It’s a response made all too often by politicians in the wake of a mass shooting or violent act of terrorism: Keeping all in “thoughts and prayers.” This week, in the wake of the Dec. 2 shooting incident in San Bernardino, Calif., that sentiment seemed to reached a breaking point and shed light on the wide political and rhetorical chasm dividing the country, said John Inazu, JD, an expert on law and religion at Washington University in St. Louis.
What is confident pluralism?

What is confident pluralism?

How do we get back to forming meaningful relationships that can move toward common ground, despite our deep ideological differences? The answer lies in a confident pluralism, said John Inazu, an expert on law and religion.

WashU Expert: Religious tax exemptions foster diverse viewpoints​

The Supreme Court decision that the Constitution requires that gay couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live has caused many religious conservatives to feel that the tax-exempt status of religious institutions is under threat. There is a fundamental reason we should protect religious organizations — even those we disagree with, said John Inazu, JD, associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.

‘Re-Assembling Labor’: Unions could do well to remember roots of assembly

While political and judicial rhetoric around unions has softened in recent years, images of the past still haunt labor, argue two Washington University in St. Louis researchers. In “Re-Assembling Labor,” published online Nov. 5 in Social Science Research Network, the authors seek to draw the lessons of assembly into contemporary labor law — to re-assemble labor law around the theory and doctrine of assembly that formed its early core.

SCOTUS preview: First Amendment expert on legislative prayer and the “mistakes of the past, present and future”​​

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this spring on whether prayers before town hall meetings violate the First Amendment clause that prohibits the establishment of religion. John Inazu, a First Amendment expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, highlights one dimension of the litigation often unaddressed by commentators: what he calls the “mistakes of the past, present and future” adopted by proponents of legislative prayer.

Law school’s partnership with Northwest Academy of Law spans mentoring, coaching and support for peace summit

Washington University in St. Louis law students are taking their commitment to public service to the next level through a growing partnership with Northwest Academy of Law. With the assistance of law faculty and through their own initiatives, law students are reaching out to the inner-city St. Louis high school’s students to provide mentoring and law-related educational experiences.

SCOTUS preview: First Amendment expert supports rights to speech, assembly in Supreme Court​ brief

​Anti-abortion groups are well known for demonstrating and sidewalk counseling at women’s reproductive health facilities, but a Massachusetts statute criminalizes even peaceful expression on public sidewalks near these clinics. An upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case will determine the constitutionality of Massachusetts’ selective exclusion law, which applies only to streets and sidewalks near reproductive health-care facilities. “If Massachusetts can close off the sidewalks surrounding reproductive health centers to peaceful expressive activity, then the government can prohibit expression in a wide range of circumstances,” says John Inazu, JD, First Amendment expert and associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.​

Three challenges for the First Amendment

A group of some of the country’s top scholars in First Amendment law recently gathered at Washington University in St. Louis to discuss pressing challenges being faced by the first of our Bill of Rights. Three issues rose to the top of the list for Washington University’s first amendment experts: free expression in a digital age; impaired political debate; and weakened rights of groups.

Religious holiday displays – three wise men and a heap of legal troubles

The upcoming holiday season brings with it the annual gaze upon religious displays — and the legal issues that come with them. “The Supreme Court’s approach to public religious displays under the Establishment Clause has been less than clear,” says John Inazu, JD, expert on religion and the constitution and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.“Some commentators have described it as the ‘three plastic animals rule’ –a Christian nativity scene on public property passes muster if it is accompanied by a sufficient combination of Rudolph, Frosty, and their friends.” Inazu says that future litigation will likely press against this line-drawing, but even apparent victories for religious liberty may come at a significant cost.

Religion and the Constitution expert discusses Pulpit Freedom Sunday

The annual celebration of Pulpit Freedom Sunday on Oct. 7 encourages pastors to preach politics from the pulpit. The Internal Revenue Code exempts certain organizations including churches from taxation, but prohibits them as a condition of tax-exemption from “any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” “Both the restriction and Pulpit Freedom Sunday raise important questions about the relationship between church and state, the role of religious argument in political discourse, and the significance of clergy in political debate,” says John Inazu, JD, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and expert on religion and the Constitution.

National Day of Prayer takes on added significance in 2012

The National Day of Prayer typically sparks debate about whether the day violates the establishment clause from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This year’s observance on May 3, however, likely will take on added significance, says John Inazu, JD, first amendment expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. The reason? 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Engel v. Vitale, which invalidated official prayer in public schools.

New book explores forgotten freedom of assembly

Freedom of assembly has become the forgotten constitutional right, with courts’ attention focused more on freedoms of association and speech. Both the Occupy and Tea Party movements, however, are reminders of how the right to assemble has been “at the heart of some of the most important social movements in American history: antebellum abolitionism, women’s suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement,” says John Inazu, JD, PhD, associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. In his new book, Liberty’s Refuge: The Forgotten Freedom of Assembly, published last month by Yale University Press, Inazu examines why freedom of assembly has become “a historical footnote in American law and political theory,” and what has been lost with the weakening of protections for private groups.

Books

Confident Pluralism

Confident Pluralism

Surviving and Thriving Through Deep Difference

In “Confident Pluralism,” John D. Inazu analyzes the current state of the country, orients the contemporary United States within its broader history, and explores the ways that Americans can—and must—strive to live together peaceably despite our deeply engrained differences. Inazu not only argues that it is possible to cohabitate peacefully in this country, but also […]