Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Daniel Conkle '79 in High Demand as Religious Liberty Scholar

Beth Gill (left) and Dan and Debbi Conkle
Beth Gill (left) and Dan and Debbi Conkle peruse their 1L "baby book" at the Class of 1979 reunion held in August, 2004.

Daniel Conkle '79, now in his 22nd year of teaching, is the Robert H. McKinney Professor of Law at Indiana University's School of Law. The constitutional law course he took on the first year he taught has evolved into a specialization in religion and the law that he maintains to this day. Concurrently, he is an adjunct professor of religious studies in Indiana University's Religious Studies Department.

"I think the excitement of constitutional law and the difficulties of it are related to the fact that it is anything but a static topic," he says. "It is moving all the time, issues change all the time. It is a very challenging topic to focus on. It is an exciting area to teach and write about."

Last year, in particular, Dan says, was an exciting one, with a slew of religion-related court cases as well as a presidential election where experts say many voters took religious issues into account.

"It was a very interesting year, maybe more interesting this time than four years ago," he says. "Religion and politics has been a hot topic for a long time, but it seems to get hotter and hotter." He has been in demand as a panelist on issues such as President George W. Bush's religion-based initiatives, the President's use of religious language and appeals, and whether religious politics are inherently conservative.

Last year, Dan rolled his interests and talents into a book, Constitutional Law: The Religion Clauses, one of many impressive entries in his career of analysis. He's contributed entries to the Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties and the Encyclopedia of Religious Freedom, and published more than twenty articles in a variety of law reviews including Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern, and Minnesota.

Dan currently is working on two projects. He is contributing to a book about U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist's legacy, in which he will write about the Rehnquist Court's decisions related to the funding of religious organizations.

He is also writing a paper on the American Constitution's approach to religion in public schools to be presented at a conference in Paris this month. Dan has received six faculty fellowships for outstanding scholarship.

Dan is also an accomplished teacher. He is a recipient of the Leon H. Wallace Teaching Award and has twice won the Gavel Award for outstanding contribution to the graduating class.

Dan's interest in religion stretches beyond the classroom.

"I've always had a personal interest in religion as well as religious liberty," he says.
He is an elder and a member of the church governing body at the First Presbyterian Church of Bloomington, Indiana, and has served as an adult leader on three church youth trips to Nicaragua. Dan also coordinates a scholarship program for Nicaraguan college students.

Fresh out of OSU, where the Marion, Ohio native also got his undergraduate degree, Dan spent a year clerking for Judge Edward Allen Tamm of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and three years practicing law for Taft, Stettinius & Hollister in Cincinnati.

The teaching bug was always there though. "While I was a student at OSU, I very much enjoyed law school, the teaching and learning environment. I found myself doing well enough academically that I thought I could get a job teaching," he says. "I wanted to go into practice first. I enjoyed it very much. It was a very rewarding period. But, I decided to pursue teaching."

Dan credits much of his success to his experience at OSU. He was in current Moritz College of Law Dean Nancy Rogers' first civil procedure class – a class from which he still has the notes. Dan was equally memorable to Dean Rogers, "I was grading the mid-term anonymously and I encountered one so exceptional, it could have been written by a law professor. I later found out it was Dan's."

Michael Perry's constitutional law course is another from which he kept the notes.
Dan's first academic article was co-authored with OSU law professor Claude Sowle. He also counts Professors Robert Nordstrom, Bob Lynn, Larry Herman and Doug Whaley among his early teaching influences.

Classmates wanting to reconnect with Dan can reach him at conkle@indiana.edu.