The National Jurist evaluated U.S. law schools to create a list of the "best law schools for the devout" that place emphasis on "religion in their curriculu[a], faculty makeup and daily campus lives," according to preLaw magazine.
The list identifies Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Fla., as the top Catholic law school for devout Catholics. The Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.—which is recommended in The Newman Guide for strong Catholic identity in its undergraduate program—is ranked fourth among Catholic schools.
Fifty-two religiously-affiliated law schools are identified in the study. The institutions are ranked based on mission, the percentage and activity of religious students and faculty, the integration of faith into the curricula, and religious services and clergy at the law school. Based on the research, the top law schools for devout Catholics, Christians of other denominations, Jews, Muslims and Mormons are named in the report.
The top ten "most devout Catholic law schools," according to the report, are Ave Maria School of Law, University of St. Thomas (Minn.), St John's University (N.Y.), Catholic University of America, Fordham University, Boston College School of Law, Notre Dame Law School, Gonzaga University, Loyola University Chicago, and Saint Louis University.
The report indicates that Ave Maria was an easy choice for the number one spot on the list, noting that some law schools on the list "are stark about the relationship" to religion on campus.
Two Masses are held daily at the school's chapel. Most of the student body and faculty are Catholic. There are crucifixes in classrooms, and classes begin with prayers.
[Dean] Milhizer believes the emphasis on religion provides a richer study of the law. "We're teaching law as a vocation, not as an exercise to gain power or exert will," he said.
While many institutions of higher education may be nominally religious, not all are of the same caliber in terms of the religious experience on campus. The report highlights this anomaly which is found even among law schools:
"There are some schools that are seemingly religious, but the faculty, staff or students are actually hostile to any discussion of religion; whereas there are schools that don't wear their religion on their sleeve at all, or are even public, where religious identity is embraced," said Marie Failinger, professor of law and the former longtime editor of the Journal of Law and Religion at Hamline University School of Law.
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