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Religious Liberty Clinic

Publication Date: 
November 08, 2013
Stanford Lawyer
Randee Fenner

Professor Jim Sonne is quoted by Randee Fenner in this Stanford Lawyer article on the law school's Religious Liberty Clinic and the types of cases the clinic has tackled in its first year. 

When Jim Sonne became the inaugural director of Stanford Law School’s Religious Liberty Clinic in the summer of 2012, he entered uncharted territory: No other law school in the nation has a clinic devoted to this subject.

Yet, in just one year, Sonne has created a model program, engaging students in a wide variety of lawyerly roles while representing clients whose legal issues span the religious and political spectrums.

“So far, we’ve handled matters for Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Native Americans, Muslims, and Sikhs,” says Sonne. “And we work at the agency, trial, and appellate levels, seeking to engage in reflective lawyering in broad service to those in need.”

Sonne adds, “Religious liberty is a natural right for people of any, or no, faith; part of our job is to teach students how to articulate this to decision makers, who can be skeptical particularly where the religious practice is controversial or uncommon.”


After a painstaking, line-by-line review with Sonne and staff attorney Jared Haynie, the clinic filed the 61-page application. One city official said it was “as good as anything that has ever been filed here.” The city later held a town hall meeting and a hearing. Each was attended by more than 250 people and included input from spring-quarter students. The city has yet to make a decision.