Frank S. Ravitch

Frank S. Ravitch
[Hi-Res Photo]
Professor of Law & Walter H. Stowers Chair of Law and Religion
Law College Building
648 N. Shaw Lane Rm 315
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300

  • Biography

    Professor Ravitch's career has included experience in private practice and on Capitol Hill. Since joining Michigan State University College of Law he has authored several books, numerous law review articles, essays, book reviews, and book chapters, as well as amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the author of Freedom’s Edge: Religious Freedom, Sexual Freedom, and the Future of America (Cambridge University Press, 2016); Marketing Creation: The Law and Intelligent Design (Cambridge University Press 2012), Masters of Illusion: The Supreme Court and the Religion Clauses (NYU Press 2007); Law and Religion: Cases, Materials, and Readings (West 2004)(2nd Ed. 2008) (3rd Ed. 2015 with Larry Cata Backer), School Prayer and Discrimination: The Civil Rights of Religious Minorities and Dissenters (Northeastern University Press, 1999 & paperback edition 2001). He is co-author, with the late Boris Bittker and with Scott Idleman, of the first comprehensive treatise on Law and Religion in more than one hundred years, Religion and the State in American Law (Cambridge University Press 2015) (this project was supported by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment). He is also co-author  of, The Japanese Legal System (West Hornbook Series 2018) (with Colin P. Jones), co-editor of Law, Religion and Tradition (Springer 2018) (with Jessica Giles and Andrea Pin), and co-author of, Employment Discrimination Law (Prentice Hall, 2005) (with Pamela Sumners and Janis McDonald).

    Professor Ravitch's articles, which have appeared in a number of highly regarded law reviews and peer reviewed journals, have primarily focused on law and religion in the U.S. and Japan, but he has also written about interpretive theory, civil rights law and disability discrimination. He has given numerous academic presentations nationally and internationally. In 2001, he was named a Fulbright scholar and served on the law faculty at Doshisha University (Japan), where he taught courses relating to U.S. constitutional law and law and religion. He serves on a Fulbright Review Committee under the auspices of the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars. Complementing his professional service is his commitment to community service; Professor Ravitch has made dozens of public presentations explaining the law before school groups, community groups, and service clubs and has served as an expert commentator for print and broadcast media.

    He teaches Torts I, Law and Religion, and Law and Interpretation. His current research projects include an article suggesting a contextual approach to resolve conflicts between religious complicity claims and discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. He argues a contextual approach can protect rights on both sides better than any bright line approach. He speaks English, Japanese and Hebrew.

  • Degrees

    LL.M. with distinction 1994, Georgetown University Law Center; J.D. 1991, The Dickinson School of Law; B.A. 1987, Tulane University

  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Courses

    Law and Interpretation
    This course will explore the ways in which judges and other legal actors interpret the law. Anyone who has studied law for even a short period of time quickly becomes aware that there are a variety of legal and jurisprudential tools that judges can use in interpreting the law. In this course we will explore the various tools judges use in interpreting cases, as well as a number of the theoretical schools that influence or help us understand judicial decision-making. We will do this by analyzing cases and by studying the various tools/theories relevant to legal interpretation. The course will cover legal interpretation in the contexts of constitutional, statutory, and common law. The hope is to look underneath the cases and try to understand how great legal minds (judges, lawyers, and scholars) can look at the same or similar facts and law, yet reach significantly varied interpretative results.

    Law and Religion
    (Formerly DCL 530) This course will focus on church/state law -- the legal doctrines that have arisen in cases under the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The course will explore the role of law in various religious traditions and the role of religion in law and public discourse. Topics addressed include school prayer, government aid to religious institutions (including school vouchers and charitable choice), government endorsement of religious symbols, the role of public forum doctrine in religion cases, freedom of religious expression, and the freedom to practice one's religion.

    Professional Responsibility
    (Formerly DCL 260) A course designed to acquaint the law student with many of the obligations owed by the lawyer, both individually and as a member of the legal profession, to the society in which he/she lives. In addition to a discussion of ethical problems involved in the practice of law, an overview of all phases of the profession will be undertaken, including disciplinary proceedings, the functions of Bar organizations and unauthorized practice. Students who have already taken Lawyer Regulation and Ethics in a Technology-Driven World may not take this course.

    Torts I
    (Formerly DCl 141) The study of the protection that the law affords against interference by others with one's person, property or intangible interest. It is broadly divisible into three areas of liability: intentional interference, negligence and strict liability. Specific tort actions and defenses are analyzed. Each is examined in the context of underlying social and economic factors that provide the framework in which law develops and social conflict is managed.

  • Bar Admission(s)

    U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania

  • Publications

    Law Faculty Repository »

    SSRN Author Page »


    Freedom’s Edge: Religious Freedom, Sexual Freedom, and the Future of America (Cambridge Univ. Press, forthcoming 2015).

    Religion and the State in American Law (Cambridge Univ. Press 2015) (with the late Boris Bittker & Scott Idelman). This project was supported by a substantial grant from the Lilly Endowment.

    Law and Religion: Cases, Materials, and Readings (West 2004) & Teachers Manual. Second Edition & Teachers Manual (2008). Third Edition with Larry Cata Backer (2015).

    Marketing Creation: The Law and Intelligent Design (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012).

    Masters of Illusion: The Supreme Court and the Religion Clauses (NYU Press 2007).

    Employment Discrimination Law (Prentice Hall 2005) (with Pamela Sumners & Janis McDonald).

    School Prayer and Discrimination: the Civil Rights of Religious Minorities and Dissenters (Northeastern University Press 1999, paperback edition 2001).


    Philosophical Hermeneutics in the Age of Pixels: Hans-Georg Gadamer, Peter Tiersma,and Dasein in the Age of the Internet, in Speaking of Language and Law: Conversations on the Work of Peter Tiersma (Oxford Univ. Press, forthcoming 2015).

    Religion, Neutrality, and Liberty: Epistemology and Judicial Interpretation, in The Rule of law and the Rule of God (Palgrave MacMillan, Simeon Ilesanmi ed., 2014).

    Religion and the Law in American History, in The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History (Paul Harvey & Edward Blum, eds., Columbia Univ. Press, 2012).

    Judicial Interpretation, Neutrality, and the U.S. Bill of Rights, in Freedom of Religion Under Bills of Rights (Paul Babie & Neville Rochow, eds. Univ. of Adelaide Press 2012).

    Interpreting Scripture/Interpreting Law, in Hermeneutics and the Authority of Scripture (Alan Cadwallader, ed., ATF Press 2011).

    Law, Religion and Science– Determining the Role Religion Plays in Shaping Scientific Inquiry in Constitutional Democracies– The Case of Intelligent Design, Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Law and Social Order (Addleton Academic Publishers 2011).

    Michigan Constitutional Law, in Essays in Michigan Legal History (Paul Finkelman ∓ Martin Hershock, eds., Ohio Univ. Press 2006) (This book received an award from the Historical Society of Michigan).

    School Prayer and Discrimination, in The Encyclopedia of Religious Freedom (Catharine Cookson, Derek Davis, Satvinder Juss, eds., Berkshire/Routledge 2003).

    A Crack In The Wall: Pluralism, Prayer and Pain in the Public Schools, in Law and Religion: a Critical Anthology (Stephen Feldman ed., NYU Press 2000).


    Be Careful What you Wish For: Why Hobby Lobby Weakens religious Freedom, 2015 BYU Law Review (forthcoming 2016).

    The Shinto Shrine Cases, Religion, Culture or Both: The Japanese Supreme Court and One Hundred Years of Establishment of Religion Cases, 2013 Brigham Young University Law Review 505 (Symposium 2013).

    The Unbearable Lightness of Free Exercise Under Smith: Exemptions, Dasein, and the More Nuanced Approach of the Japanese Supreme Court, 44 Texas Tech Law Review 259 (2011) (Symposium).

    Playing the Proof Game: The Law and Intelligent Design, 113 Penn State Law Review 841 (2009).

    Religious Objects as Legal Subjects, 40 Wake Forest Law Review 1011 (2005).

    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Neutrality: Broad Principles, Formalism, and the Establishment Clause, 38 Georgia Law Review 489 (2004).

    The Supreme Court’s Rhetorical Hostility: What is “Hostile” to Religion Under the Establishment Clause? 2004 Brigham Young University Law Review 1031 (2004) (symposium).

    Locke v. Davey and the Lose-lose Scenario: What Locke Could Have Said, but Didn’t, 40 Tulsa Law Review (2005) (symposium).

    Some Thoughts on Religion, Abstinence Only, and Sex Education in the Public Schools, 26 Children’s Legal Rts. J. 48 (2006) (symposium based on presentations for the AALS Section on Education Law panel at the 2006 AALS Annual Meeting).

    Struggling With Text And Context: A Hermeneutic Approach to Interpreting and Realizing Law School Missions, 74 St. John’s Law Review 731 (2000) (symposium).

    The Americans With Certain Disabilities Act: Title I Of The ADA And The Supreme Court’s Result Oriented Jurisprudence, 77 Denver University Law Review 119 (2000)(with M. Freeman).

    Privatization and Public Employee Pension Rights: Treading in Unexplored Territory, 19 Review of Public Pers. Administration 41 (1999)(with W. Lawther).

    Creating Chaos In The Name of Consistency: Affirmative Action And The Odd Legacy Of Adarand Constructors Inc. v. Pena, 101 Dickinson Law Review 281 (1997).

    Hostile Work Environment And The Objective Reasonableness Conundrum: Deriving A Workable Framework From Tort Law For Addressing Knowing Harassment of Hypersensitive Employees, 36 Boston College Law Review 257 (1995).

    Contextualizing Gender Harassment: Providing An Analytical Framework For An Emerging Concept In Discrimination Law, 1995 Detroit College of Law at Michigan State Law Review 853 (lead article in annual labor law issue).

    Beyond Reasonable Accommodation: The Availability And Structure Of A Cause Of Action For Workplace Harassment Under The Americans With Disabilities Act, 15 Cardozo Law Review 1475 (1994).

    Balancing Fundamental Disability Policies: The Relationship Between The Americans With Disabilities Act And Social Security Disability, 1 Georgetown Journal on Fighting Poverty 240 (1994).


    Complimentary or Competing Freedoms: Government Officials, Religious Freedom and LGBTQ Rights, Fla. Int. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2016) (symposium)

    Visits by the Japanese Prime Minister’s to the Yasukuni Shrine Analyzed Under Articles 20 and 89 of the Japanese Constitution, Michigan State University International L. Rev. 713 (Symposium 2014)

    A Basic Introduction to Constitutional Free Exercise of Religion in the United States and Japan, 64 Doshisha L. Rev. 85 (2014) (special symposium issue dedicated to Taisuke Kamata).

    Legal Interpretation/Scriptual Interpretation, 2009 Michigan State L. Rev. 377 (2010) (symposium).

    Religious Freedom and Israeli Law, 57 Drake Law Review 879 (2009) (symposium sponsored by the Drake Constitutional Law Center).

    Rights and the Religion Clauses, 3 Duke J. of Constitutional Law & Public Policy 91 (2008).

    Intelligent Design in Public Universities: Establishment of Religion or Academic Freedom? 16 William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 1061 (2008) (symposium).

    Have also written a number of short entries for a variety of legal encyclopedias, including: The Encyclopedia of Civil Liberties; Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court of the United States; Encyclopedia of the First Amendment.

    Book Reviews

    Review of Holy Writ: Interpreting Law and Religion (Arie-Jan Kwak, ed., Ashgate Publishing 2009), in International J. for the Semiotics of Law (forthcoming 2011).

    Review of Joan Delfattore, The Fourth R: Conflicts Over Religion in America’s Public Schools (2004), 67 Sociology of Religion 112 (2006).

    Review of Piety, Politics, and Pluralism: Religion, the Courts, and the 2000 Election (Mary C. Segers, ed. 2002), 65 Sociology of Religion 425 (2004).

    Review of Guyora Binder and Robert Weisberg, Literary Criticisms of Law (Princeton Univ. Press 2000), 18 International J. for the Semiotics of Law (2004).

    Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks? A Nonfoundationalist Analysis of Richard A. Posner’s, THE PROBLEMATICS OF MORAL AND LEGAL THEORY, 37 TULSA LAW REVIEW 967 (2002) (invited by the Law Review for Legal Scholarship Symposium issue dedicated to Morton Horwitz).

    U.S. Supreme Court Briefs

    Brief Amicus Curiae in support of Pet. for Writ of Cert. in Hecker v. Deere (2009).

    Brief Amicus Curiae of (twenty railway unions) in Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. Sorrell (2006).

    Chandler v. Siegelman, author of brief Amicus Curiae of the Interfaith Alliance & Horace Mann League in Support of Petition for Writ of Certiorari (filed January 21, 2000). Result: Certiorari granted, judgement vacated and remanded to Eleventh Circuit for further consideration in light of Santa Fe Indep. School Dist. v. Doe. McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, signed onto "scholars and historians" amicus brief (filed 2004).

    Signatory to numerous amicus briefs in First Amendment cases.