Ave Maria School of Law, Cardozo Law School, Jews, Law Schools, Rankings, Religion

‘Religious’ Law School Rankings: Does Your Law School Make Jesus Happy?

Nothing illustrates the way religion can warp the normal function of rational thought quite like the National Jurist’s “most devout law schools” rankings. If you are a person of faith, that’s fine. Mazel tov. And if you want to find new and exciting ways to mingle your religious beliefs with our secular laws, that’s fine too. I mean, I’ll do what I can to oppose you, but in America we must be comfortable with difference.

But picking a law school based on its piety seems pretty dumb. For one thing, law schools should be teaching, you know, laws and stuff. What you do with that knowledge is your own choice, but it seems to me that people should want the best education they can get, and then apply that education to the causes and issues that move them. Why go to Regent Law if you can go to Vanderbilt Law and then advocate for your theocracy from a position of greater strength?

The second problem is that picking a law school because it has some kind of “mission” beyond helping you become a good and employed lawyer seems like a path to pain. But that will become obvious as we actually look at the National Jurist’s list.

In any event, onward Christian lawyers…

Let’s start with their methodology, printed in the National Jurist’s Pre-Law magazine:

We first identified the 52 law schools that are affiliated with a religious faith. We then gathered detailed information from the schools and from other sources. We also gathered information on non-faith schools with large populations of Muslims, Jews and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also know as Mormons.

From that data, we compiled a ranking based on the following: percentage and activity of students who belong to the faith; percentage and activity of faculty who belong to the faith; number of religion-focused courses and other ways the school incorporates the faith into the curricula; religion-based journals, centers and clinics; religious services and clergy at the law school; mission of the law school.

Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the “activity” of students and professors “who belong to the faith.” If you donate to a food drive, is that religious “activity”? Or is it only religious activity if you say “I do this in the name of Jesus” when you put your can of creamed corn into the box?

Anyway, here are the schools’ rankings, which I pulled from TaxProf Blog, along with their U.S. News rankings:

Top 5 Law Schools for Devout Catholics:

1. Ave Maria (Tier 2)
2. University of St. Thomas (#124)
3. St. John’s (#98)
4. Catholic (#80)
5. Fordham (#38)

Top 5 Law Schools for Devout Christians (Other Than Catholics):

1. Liberty (Tier 2)
2. Trinity (n/r)
3. Regent (Tier 2)
4. Pepperdine (#61)
5. Baylor (#54)

Top 5 Law Schools for Devout Jews:

1. Cardozo (#58)
2. Touro (Tier 2)
3. Emory (#23)
4. American (#56)
5. George Washington (#21)

Top 5 Law Schools for Devout Muslims:

1. UCLA (#17)
2. Michigan State (#80)
3. George Washington (#21)
4. Michigan (#9)
5. Yale (#1)

Top 5 Law Schools for Devout Mormons:

1. BYU (#44)
2. Creighton (#119)
3. Gonzaga (#113)
4. George Washington (#21)
5. Utah (#41)

Wow, lucky Muslims. Since no school specifically caters to their religion, it seems like they just get to go to the best law school they can get into and hope for the best. What a novel freaking concept.

Is this the right time to point out that the most “devout” Catholic institution expects people to pay $61,935 in tuition, fees, and other costs of attendance? Is it here that we’re going to talk about the rank hypocrisy of Liberty University Law School charging over $30,000 per year in tuition to “revitalize” a “comprehensive Christian worldview”? Just let me know when it’s appropriate to talk about how the covenant of God is expressed through charging his chosen people $51,208 a year to get a law degree. I’ll be here all week.

Teaching lawyers how to infect secular laws with religion may or may not be the goals of some of these so-called “devout” institutions. But it seems pretty clear that part of their mission IS NOT creating an army of lawyers who can actually afford to help the poor, the sick, or the hungry. Really, BYU Law is one of the only schools that makes more than a token effort to translate their religious beliefs into a reasonable price point for believers. BYU Law charges only $11,280 per year, for LDS members. That’s… devout.

Whatever. Devout rankings are actually lists that I’m sure some schools would like to be on, if for no other reason than nobody has ever gone broke fleecing the faithful. You’ll note that neither Notre Dame nor Boston College make it into the top five Catholic institutions (though they are in the top ten). Georgetown Law doesn’t even crack the list. This doesn’t surprise UCLA professor Stephen Bainbridge:

Obviously, I’m not at surprised that UCLA didn’t make the list. We are a pretty relentlessly secular place. I am a little surprised (although not all that much) that Notre Dame is so low. And, I’m afraid I’m not at all surprised that Georgetown didn’t even make the top 10. I am prepared to stand corrected, but my impression from both direct observation and numerous conversations over the years is that GULC’s Catholic identity these days is nominal at best. To cite but one example:

“A Georgetown University Law Center class offered next spring will require students to work with a lobbying group which a lawyer said is known for its work promoting abortion rights.

“Georgetown offers a course that will require students to work with an organization dedicated to promoting abortion and contraception and actively attacking religious freedom,” Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network, told CNA Oct. 25.

She added that Georgetown’s offering of the course is “a disgrace to its Catholic identity.””

Yeah… see… this is kind of the problem you get into when you try to define the “most religious” anything. I’m Catholic (nominally), and Pope Francis makes me feel like it’s kind of okay to say that again (I really almost went to midnight mass this year. Almost!). I went to Catholic schools growing up. But it’s bothersome that someplace like Ave Maria gets to somehow “represent” Catholic education, while Georgetown and Notre Dame — two institutions committed to a Jesuit ideal of higher learning — somehow don’t.

Being “faithful” doesn’t mean you need to feel like you have to impose your faith on others who disagree, no matter how much Pat Robertson tells us so. Is Regent School of Law “religious”? Sure. But I feel like there are probably a lot of other schools that are more committed to the spirit of their religious underpinnings than the mere dogma some people use as a proxy for faith.

Religious Law School Rankings [TaxProf Blog]
Best Law Schools for Devout Catholics: Where’s UCLA? More Important, Where’s Georgetown? [Professor Bainbridge]

ATL Law School Directory
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