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Thomas C. Berg

James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy

  • Education
  • J.D., University of Chicago Law School
    M.A., Religion, University of Chicago
    M.A., Philosophy and Politics, Oxford University (Rhodes Scholar)
    B.S., Northwestern University

  • Expertise
  • Church and State, Constitutional Law, Free Speech, Intellectual Property, Religious Liberty, Right to Life Issues / Abortion, School Choice

Thomas Berg teaches constitutional law, religious liberty, intellectual property courses, and the religious liberty appellate clinic. In the clinic he supervises students in writing filing briefs in major religious liberty cases, drawing on his experience drafting nearly 60 briefs on issues of religious liberty and free speech in the Supreme Court and lower courts.

Berg combines advocacy with scholarship as one of the nation's leading experts on religious liberty and law and religion. He is the author of six books, including a leading casebook, Religion and the Constitution (with Michael McConnell and Christopher Lund, Aspen Publishing), and The State and Religion in a Nutshell (West). He has written approximately 75 book chapters and journal articles and dozens of op-eds and shorter pieces on religious freedom, constitutional law, and the role of religion in law, politics and society. His work has been cited multiple times by the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals. He is at work on a forthcoming book, Religious Liberty in a Polarized Age.

His other chief scholarly interest is in the relation of intellectual property rights, social justice, and human development. He is co-author of Patents on Life: Religious, Moral, and Social Justice Aspects of Biotechnology and Intellectual Property (Cambridge U. Press 2019, with Roman Cholij and Simon Ravenscroft), and he has been a leader in writing and encouraging others' writing on the relationship between global intellectual property and religious thought.

Berg grew up in Chicago and received a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University, an M.A. in philosophy and politics from Oxford University, and both an M.A. in religious studies and a J.D. from the University of Chicago. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. While in law school, Berg served as executive editor of the law review, won the Beale and Bustin prizes for legal scholarship and writing, and served as musical director for three law-student musical comedy shows. After clerking for Judge Alvin Rubin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Berg practiced law in Chicago with Mayer, Brown and Platt doing general commercial litigation, appellate litigation, and nonprofit institutions' legal work.

Berg has served as St. Thomas School of Law's Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and as co-director of the Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy. He has received awards for his religious liberty scholarship and advocacy from the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, the DePaul University College of Law, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and the Christian Legal Society.

Berg has also been a visiting professor at the University of Aix (France), Peter Pazmany University (Hungary), and the University of Siena (Italy). He has made dozens of presentations to academic, professional, religious, and community groups and has testified before Congress and state legislatures multiple times. He contributes regularly to the SCOTUS Blog. the Mirror of Justice blog on Catholic thought and law, and the Whole Life Democrat blog. He is past chair of the Law and Religion Section of the Association of American Law Schools and of the national board of Democrats for Life of America. He collaborates on musical plays with his wife Maureen a playwright, and performs in the Twin Cities Gilbert & Sullivan light opera company.

Read Berg's scholarship on SSRN


Religious Liberty in a Polarized Age (Eerdmans Publishing 2023)

Patents on Life: Religious, Moral, and Social Justice Aspects of Biotechnology and Intellectual Property (with Roman Cholij and Simon R. Ravenscroft) (Cambridge University Press 2019)

Religion and the Constitution (with Michael W. McConnell and Christopher Lund)(Wolters Kluwer 4th ed. 2016)

The State and Religion in a Nutshell (Thomson/Reuters 3d ed. 2016)


“Life Patents, Religion, and Justice: A Summary of Themes,” in Patents on Life supra “Antonin Scalia: Devout Christian; Worldly Judge?,” in Christianity and American Jurists (Daniel Dreisbach and Mark Hall eds., Cambridge University Press 2019) “Religious Voluntarism,” in Blackwell's Companion to Religious Pluralism (Kevin Schilbrack ed., Blackwell's Publishers forthcoming 2020) “'Christian Bigots' and 'Muslim Terrorists': Religious Liberty in a Polarized Age,” in Freedom of, for, and from Religion: Conceptualizing a Common Right (W. Cole Durham, Jr., Javier Martínez-Torrón, and Donlu Thayer, eds., Routledge forthcoming 2020)

"Freedom to Serve: Religious Organizational Freedom, LGBT Rights, and the Common Good," in Religious Freedom, LGBT Rights, and the Prospects for Common Ground (William Eskridge, Jr. and Robin Fretwell Wilson eds., Cambridge University Press 2018)

"Protecting Religious Liberty and Same-Sex Marriage," 99 Virginia Law Review Online (2013) (with Douglas Laycock), expanded version in Religion and Equality (W. Cole Durham and Donlu Thayer eds., Ashgate Press, 2016)

"Progressive Arguments for Religious Organizational Freedom," 21 Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues 279 (2013)

"Intellectual Property and the Preferential Option for the Poor," 5 Journal of Catholic Social Thought 193 (2008)

"Minority Religions and the Religion Clauses," 82 Washington University Law Quarterly 919 (2004)

"Religious Conservatives and the Death Penalty," 9 William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 31 (2000)

"Church-State Relations and the Social Ethics of Reinhold Niebuhr," 73 North Carolina Law Review 1567 (1995)


"Partly Acculturated Religion and Religious Freedom," Notre Dame Law School, Yale Law School, November 2015

"Kamm Memorial Lecture," Can Religious Liberty and Political Progressivism Coexist?," Wheaton College, April 2013