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The Center for the Law and Human Person Holds a Discussion on A New Birth of Civil Rights

On February 8, the Center for Law and Human Person (CLHP) held discussion, A New Birth of Civil Rights, at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law (Catholic Law) in Washington, D.C. The panel was introduced and moderated by the CLHP Associate Director and Lecturer at Catholic Law, Louis Brown. The discussion opened with the question of “What are Civil Rights?,” and with a brief history of civil rights in the United States by Roger Severino, Vice President of Domestic Policy, The Heritage Foundation, and Danielle Brown, Associate Director of the ad hoc Committee Against Racism at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The American Civil Rights movement in particular the American legal civil rights movement was based on a belief in the ideals articulated in the Declaration of Independence, that all people are created equal and endowed by God with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence’s advancements of the rights to life, liberty, and happiness affirm a commitment to the equal God given dignity of every person and therefore equal justice under the law. This ideal inherently proclaims the reality that the state and the laws that govern the people in our nation must respect and protect the dignity and God-given rights of each person. Tragically, the United States failed to live up to these ideals because of the culture of death that was exhibited most dramatically in the form of the institution of slavery and the racism and the dehumanization of Native Americans.

Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, the U.S. failed to live up these ideals due to Jim Crow segregation, and decades of discrimination, and dehumanization. An American civil rights movement based on love of God and love of neighbor arose, in the form of the abolitionists movement in the 1800s, and in the form of the 20th Century civil rights movement and its drive for desegregation and racial equality. These movements, based on the equal dignity of the human person, drove out slavery through the enactment of the 13th and 14th Amendments. And these movements drove U.S. segregation and much of the legalized forms of racial discrimination through the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act. Following the discussion, the panelist took questions from the audience.

Danielle M. Brown, Associate Director of the ad hoc Committee Against Racism at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), was born and raised in the Archdiocese of Detroit. She is a lawyer licensed in the State of Michigan. Before coming to the USCCB in May 2018, she served on several boards, commissions, and ministries in Lansing, Michigan, including co-founding and leading one of Renewal Ministries’ first young adult discipleship chapters, I.D.916, now known simply as I.D. She was also a diocesan delegate at the USCCB Convocation of Catholic Leaders and the National Black Catholic Congress in 2017. Previously, she was a three-time governor appointed appellate administrative law judge in the State of Michigan, and an assistant deputy legal counsel to the Governor of the State of Michigan.

Roger Severino is vice president of domestic policy and The Joseph C. and Elizabeth A. Anderlik Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. Severino is a national authority on civil rights, conscience and religious freedom, the administrative state, and information privacy, particularly as applied to health care law and policy. Severino spearheaded the HHS Accountability Project while a Senior Fellow at EPPC from 2021 – 2023. Previously, Severino was director of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, where he led a team of over 250 staff enforcing our nation’s civil rights, conscience and religious freedom, and health information privacy laws. He served from 2017 to 2021 and was the longest-serving OCR director of the past three decades. Prior to joining HHS, Severino served for two years as director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at Heritage, advocating for life, family, and religious-freedom policies. Before that, he was a trial attorney for seven years at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division where he enforced the Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Severino started his legal career at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, where he was legal counsel and chief operations officer and defended the rights of people of all faiths under federal and international law.

Carter Snead

Carter Snead is the Charles E. Rice Professor of Law and the Director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at Notre Dame Law School. Professor Snead is one of the world’s leading experts on public bioethics with extensive research that explores issues relating to neuroethics, enhancement, human embryo research, assisted reproduction, abortion, and end-of-life decision-making. Professor Snead received his J.D. from Georgetown University and his B.A. degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.

Lucia Silecchia

Lucia Silecchia is the Associate Dean of Faculty Research and a Professor of Law who has taught at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law since 1991. Professor Silecchia has written extensively in the areas of environmental law and ethics, elder law, Catholic social thought, legal education, law and literature, and legal writing. In December, 2016, she began service as an Expert to the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, assisting on matters related to the elderly, people with disabilities and ecology. Professor Silecchia received her J.D. from Yale Law School. And her B.A. degree from Queens College (C.U.N.Y.).

Luis Perez

Luis J. Perez is a Partner at McDermott, Will & Emery in its Miami office and focuses his practice on mergers and acquisitions and corporate governance matters, including international transactions, for clients operating throughout the United States and Latin America. Mr. Perez is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is also a senior editor for the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Social Impact Review. He received his J.D. from The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law and his B.A. degree from Rollins College.

Michael Moreland

Michael Moreland is University Professor of Law and Religion and director of the Eleanor H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law where he has taught numerous courses including Torts, Evidence, Bioethics and the Law, Advanced Torts, Constitutional Law II, Justice and Rights, and seminars in Law and Religion. As a renowned scholar in these fields, Professor Moreland has published articles in leading legal, public policy, and medical journals, and his chapters on law, ethics and religion have been featured in numerous books, including titles published by Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press. Professor Moreland received his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, his M.A. and Ph.D. in theological ethics from Boston College, and his B.A. degree in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame.

Veryl Miles

Veryl Victoria Miles teaches Consumer Bankruptcy and Commercial Law courses at the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, where she was previously Dean from 2005-2012. Much of her extensive scholarship has been devoted to the subject of consumer bankruptcy law as well as a range of issues regarding legal education and admission to the bar. Professor Miles is a graduate of Wells College in Aurora, New York, and received her J.D. from The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.

Rev. Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P.

Rev. Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P., is University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry at The Catholic University of America. He previously taught moral theology of the Dominican House of Studies and served as Prior of the Priory of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.. Father Aquinas’s scholarship focuses on Thomas Aquinas and the common good. He entered the Dominican Province of St. Joseph in 2005, and after several years of pastoral work, received his doctorate at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland).

David Crawford

David S. Crawford is Dean and Associate Professor of Moral Theology and Family Law at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America. Dr. Crawford’s research has focused on natural law, gender identity, homosexuality, and the anthropological implications of modern civil law. He has an S.T.D., S.T.L., and M.T.S. from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute, a J.D. from University of Michigan Law School, an M.A. in writing from the University of Iowa, and B.A. from the University of Iowa.

Gerard V. Bradley

Gerard V. Bradley is professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, where he teaches Legal Ethics and Constitutional Law. He serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of Jurisprudence, which he formerly co-edited. Professor Bradley’s scholarly work focuses on the intersection of religious liberty, Catholic social teaching, and American law. He has written many books including Unquiet Americans: U.S. Catholics and America’s Common Good (St. Augustine’s Press, 2019). He received his B.A. and J.D. from Cornell University.

Erika Bachiochi

Erika Bachiochi is a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a Senior Fellow at the Abigail Adams Institute. Her scholarship focuses on feminist legal theory, Catholic social teaching, and Equal Protection jurisprudence. Ms. Bachiochi’s most recent book, The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision, published by University of Notre Dame Press in 2021, was a finalist for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s Conservative Book of the Year Award. She has edited two other books, and her writings have appeared in publications such as the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, The New York Times, and The Atlantic. Ms. Bachiochi has a J.D. from Boston University School of Law, an M.A. from Boston College, and a B.A. from Middlebury College.

Helen Alvaré

Helen M. Alvaré is the Robert A. Levy Endowed Chair in Law and Liberty at Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University, where she teaches Family Law, Property Law, and Law and Religion. Her research focuses on marriage, parenting, non-marital households, and freedom of religion. She has published several books including Religious Freedom After the Sexual Revolution: A Catholic Guide with Catholic University of America Press in 2022, and Putting Children’s Interests First in American Family Law and Policy: With Power Comes Responsibility with Cambridge University Press in 2017. In addition to her scholarship, Professor Alvaré is a member of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life and a board member of Catholic Relief Services. She holds a J.D. from Cornell University School of Law, an M.A. in Systematic Theology from Catholic University of America, and a B.S. from Villanova University.

William Rooney

William H. Rooney is the Lumen Legis Fellow of the Center for Law and the Human Person and a Lecturer at the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America. His primary areas of scholarship and teaching are law in the Catholic intellectual tradition and antitrust law. Mr. Rooney aspires to contribute to the Center in collaboration with students, scholars, and practitioners and through his experience in philosophy, law, and economics. He is especially interested in studying the human person as the imago Dei who receives the light of all law from God, the Eternal Light, Creator, and Lawgiver. Mr. Rooney has been a lifelong student of the Catholic intellectual tradition and its intersection with law and economics. He has an M.A. in Philosophy from Holy Apostles College and Seminary, a J.D. from Yale Law School, a Diploma in Law from the University of Oxford, and a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame. Mr. Rooney is a former partner of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and former co-head of Willkie’s Antitrust Practice Group and practiced antitrust law for over 30 years. Mr. Rooney is a Trustee of the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project and has collaborated with the Collegium and the Portsmouth Institutes.

Louis Brown

Louis Brown is the Center’s Associate Director. Brown received a Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law. After law school, he first worked as a private practice attorney for a firm where he practiced labor law and commercial litigation. He later served as associate director of social concerns for a state Catholic conference. While at the conference, among other efforts, he advocated for life-affirming health care policy, co-led a legislative coalition in favor of housing non-discrimination legislation, advocated for in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, and sought to protect the social safety net for the poor. Brown went on to become a Congressman’s legislative counsel and his liaison to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary. He also served as the Congressman’s primary health care staffer. 

Marc DeGirolami

Marc O. DeGirolami is the inaugural St. John Henry Newman Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for Law and the Human Person. His publications include The Tragedy of Religious Freedom (Harvard University Press) and articles in the Yale Law JournalNotre Dame Law ReviewWashington University Law ReviewConstitutional Commentary, Legal Theory, and the Boston College Law Review, among others. Before joining the Columbus School of Law in 2024, he was the Cary Fields Professor of Law and the Co-Director of the Mattone Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s Law School. He has also been a Visiting Professor and Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Department of Politics, as well as a Visiting Professor at Notre Dame Law School and The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law. His professional experience includes service as an Assistant District Attorney in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Elizabeth Kirk

Elizabeth Kirk is the Center’s Co-Director and Assistant Professor of Law at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law. She joined the Columbus School of Law after serving as the Director and Kowalski Chair of Catholic Thought at the Institute for Faith and Culture at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas. From 2005 to 2010, she served as the Associate Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, an interdisciplinary center inspired by the teachings of St. Pope John Paul II and dedicated to bringing the Catholic moral, intellectual and cultural tradition to bear upon the formation of students. From 2012 to 2016, Kirk served as a resident fellow in cultural and legal studies at the Stein Center for Social Research at Ave Maria University.