Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Boyd School of Law. Prof. Griffin, who teaches constitutional law and bioethics, is known for her interdisciplinary work in law and religion. She holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Yale University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She is author of five editions of the Foundation Press casebook, Law and Religion: Cases and Materials; co-author, with Joan H. Krause, of Practicing Bioethics Law; co-author, with Marci A. Hamilton, of Learning Constitutional Law, and editor of Law and Religion: Cases in Context. She is also the author of numerous articles and book chapters about law, religion, politics and ethics. Her most recent article, What Did Those Sixteen Justices Say?, 58 Willamette L. Rev. 163 (2022), is about the sixteen Catholics who have been Justices on the Supreme Court.

Prof. Griffin has written numerous briefs defending employees’ civil rights. She is a critic of the ministerial exception, and wrote amicus briefs in Hosanna-Tabor and Our Lady of Guadalupe School arguing that neither employee was a minister.

Before moving to UNLV, Griffin was the Larry and Joanne Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics at the University of Houston Law Center, and a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law. Prof. Griffin clerked for the Honorable Mary M. Schroeder of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and was an assistant counsel in the Department of Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates professional misconduct by federal prosecutors. Before law school, she was a professor in the Theology Department at the University of Notre Dame.

Columns by Leslie C. Griffin
Survivors Win in Louisiana—On Their Second Effort

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin discusses a recent Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the state legislature’s decision to extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse survivors to sue their abusers. Professor Griffin argues that this ruling correctly prioritized the rights of abuse survivors over the property rights of defendants, and that it represents an important victory for victims seeking justice, although uncertainty remains regarding the impact of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ bankruptcy filing on survivors’ ability to have their day in court.

President Biden’s Cafeteria Is Open to Everyone

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin discusses the concept of “cafeteria Catholicism,” where some Catholic politicians, such as President Joe Biden, follow certain elements of their faith while diverging from church teachings on other issues, such as, in Biden’s case, abortion rights, LGBTQ+ equality, and contraception. Professor Griffin argues that cafeteria Catholicism is a good thing, as it allows Catholic politicians to govern based on a pluralistic consensus that protects everyone’s rights and freedoms, rather than imposing specific Catholic doctrines on the entire population.

Going to the Altar: Lisa Sarnoff Gochman’s Book on the Supreme Court

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin recounts her experience reading At the ALTAR of the Appellate Gods: Arguing before the US Supreme Court by Lisa Sarnoff Gochman. Amidst a tragic backdrop of recent violence at UNLV, Professor Griffin reflects on Gochman’s book, which provides a human perspective on appellate law through her experience arguing in the notable Supreme Court case, Apprendi v. New Jersey. As Professor Griffin describes, Gochman’s narrative highlights the challenges and intricacies of presenting a case before the Supreme Court, offering insights into the legal process and the personal journey of an appellate lawyer.

Why Didn’t the U.S. Bomb Kyoto?

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin explores the nuanced and multifaceted influences behind the U.S. decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki instead of Kyoto during World War II. Drawing upon the speculated influence of Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s personal connection to Kyoto and weather conditions affecting bombing success, Professor Griffin emphasizes the complex interplay between personal morality, strategic considerations, and even uncontrollable factors like the weather in shaping historical outcomes.

Learning About Survivors From the Illinois Attorney General’s 2023 Report on Clergy Sex Abuse

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on the recently released report about abuse in the six Roman Catholic Illinois Dioceses. Professor Griffin points out several ways in which the report prioritizes the survivors—a welcome contrast to others who have prioritized the abusers at the expense of the survivors.

How Did Six Conservative Catholics Become Supreme Court Justices Together?

Penn professor Marci Hamilton and UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin explain how six conservative Catholics were able to be on the U.S. Supreme Court at the same time. Professors Hamilton and Griffin describe how 1970s and 1980s laid the groundwork for today’s conservative Catholic Court and argue that this group is making extraordinary progress toward making the United States a Catholic theocracy.

Reflections on Mary Jo McConahay’s Playing God: American Catholic Bishops and the Far Right

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on Mary Jo McConahay’s new book, Playing God: American Catholic Bishops and the Far Right, which describes how U.S. Catholic bishops have successfully implemented far-right policies at all levels of U.S. government, despite views that differ radically from the head of the Church, Pope Francis. Professor Griffin summarizes McConahay’s telling of how Catholic bishops have pushed their agenda into law and encourages readers interested in this history to read Playing God.

Updates on Lawsuits against Religions

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on three recent cases involving lawsuits against religious employers by former employees. Professor Griffin explains the facts and outcomes of each case and argues that the expansive ministerial exception doctrine permits employers to discriminate at will simply by labeling employees as “ministers.”

Goodbye to the Establishment Clause

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, in which the Court allowed a public-school football coach to lead players in his public Christian prayer. Professor Griffin argues that the decision effectively deletes the Establishment Clause from the Constitution and elevates the free exercise rights of a few individuals.

What Did the Justices Say About Football Prayer? The Oral Argument in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on Monday’s oral argument in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which presents a question about the intersection between the Free Exercise Clause, the Establishment Clause, and government speech jurisprudence. Professor Griffin describes how various Justices approached the case and what we might learn about how they are inclined to vote.

Supreme Court to Decide Between Establishment and Free Exercise in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on a recent case the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear that presents an apparent conflict between the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. Professor Griffin describes the background of the case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District and explains the significance of the legal issues at stake.

Why We Still Like Separation of Church and State

Penn professor Marci A. Hamilton and UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin explain why the separation between church and state is such an important principle in American democracy and describe ways in which this separation is being eroded. Professors Hamilton and Griffin urge courts and lawmakers to keep the states and the nation from being run by the world’s religions.

Believing Anita Hill

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on a new book by Anita Hill, who famously testified about her sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas before his Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Professor Griffin praises Hill’s book for chronicling the history of gender violence and for demanding meaningful reform to address gender violence at all levels of society.

Beverly Brazauskas’s 2003 Case Against the Diocese

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin describes a recent conversation with Beverly Brazauskas—a woman who in 2003 lost a lawsuit against a Catholic bishop and diocese—in which Brazauskas reflects on her case. Professor Griffin points out that Brazauskas’s loss epitomizes the saying “you can’t win when you go up against the church” because religion in the United States is often treated as above the law.

Can Philly and LGBTQs Still Win?

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, in which the Court held that Philadelphia’s refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agreed to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Professor Griffin joins numerous Catholic leaders in urging Catholic believers—a majority of whom support allowing LGBTQ couples to adopt children, contrary to CSS’s position in this case—to tell their leaders to support all families, including gay families.

Mrs. Billie B. McClure

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin reflects on one of the earliest litigated ministerial exception cases, in which Billie Marie Barrett McClure sued the Salvation Army in 1971 for providing men with superior housing benefits as compared to women. Professor Griffin describes how the language of the petition for certiorari in that case (which was denied) raised some of the very issues that the Court did not fully consider until Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, which it decided in 2012.

Why We Like Smith: We Want Neutral and General Laws to Prevent Harm

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin and University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton describe how the current Supreme Court is furtively undermining neutral and general laws by embracing a so-called “most favored nation” theory. Professors Griffin and Hamilton explain that under this dangerous approach, otherwise neutral laws that might incidentally burden religious exercise (such as zoning laws or public health regulations) are constitutionally suspect if they create any exceptions for purportedly secular activities, and, they argue, this can result in legal discrimination and harms to groups including LGBTQ+ individuals, children, those with disabilities, and others.

A Whistleblower “Minister” Loses in the Illinois Supreme Court

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on a recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court characterizing a “lay principal” at a Catholic school as a “minister” and therefore dismissing her claim under the Illinois Whistleblower Act under the so-called “ministerial exception.” Professor Griffin argues that the ministerial exception gives churches pure religious freedom to dismiss all legal claims against them, rendering them entirely unaccountable for their unlawful actions.