Joshua McDaniel appointed director of Harvard Law School’s Religious Freedom Clinic

Joshua C. McDaniel

Credit: Horvitz & Levy LLP Joshua C. McDaniel, director of the Harvard Law School Religious Freedom Clinic

Harvard Law School has appointed Joshua C. McDaniel to serve as a visiting assistant clinical professor and as the director of its Religious Freedom Clinic. McDaniel, who served as a staff attorney in the clinic during the Fall Term 2020, brings almost a decade of top-flight experience as a practicing lawyer as well as deep expertise in law and religion cases.

“I am delighted that Josh has agreed to lead our Religious Freedom Clinic, which will build on the fine traditions of clinical education by representing vulnerable clients from all faiths and backgrounds who face impediments to practicing their religions,” said John F. Manning ’85, Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law. “Josh’s deep and broad ranging experience in the First Amendment and the law of religion, coupled with his thoughtful and collaborative mentorship, make him an ideal director for our growing clinic.”

The clinic is modeled on Stanford Law School’s landmark Religious Liberty Clinic and was led during its inaugural year by the Stanford clinic’s founder, Professor of Law James Sonne ’97, who will return again this fall as a visiting professor as the new clinic gets off the ground. The clinic gives students hands-on experience representing a diverse group of clients in legal matters arising from many different religious beliefs, practices, and circumstances. As a pro bono program dedicated to building bridges in service to those in need, the clinic focuses on representing vulnerable clients and members of minority religions in our pluralistic society.

“I am thrilled to work with HLS’s incredible students in the Religious Freedom Clinic,” said McDaniel. “The clinic will give students a unique opportunity to learn the practice of law firsthand by serving as advocates for vulnerable and misunderstood individuals with a wide range of beliefs and backgrounds. The students last fall did incredible work, and I can’t wait to see what the clinic’s students accomplish next.”

Harvard has the largest and most diverse clinical program of any law school in the U.S., with 36 clinics and 11 student practice organizations that enable students to provide free legal services to people in need under the supervision of clinical professors. In recent years, the law school has established new clinics in a wide range of legal areas, including the Impact Defense Initiative, the Animal Law and Policy Clinic, the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic, and the Election Law Clinic.

“I am pleased to welcome Josh to our community of outstanding clinical teachers and students at HLS,” said WilmerHale Clinical Professor of Law Christopher Bavitz, who serves as the Law School’s vice dean for experiential and clinical education.

In its first year, the HLS Religious Freedom Clinic represented clients with a wide array of claims, including a Muslim member of the U.S. armed forces who sought a religious exemption to grow a beard — usually prohibited in the military — while continuing to perform his duties. In another case, students drafted a federal complaint challenging a state agency’s refusal to hire a Jehovah’s Witness because she objected to signing a state-mandated loyalty oath, which would have required her to swear to take up arms, contrary to her religious beliefs. Students also drafted an amended complaint on behalf of a pro se prisoner after prison officials revoked his kosher diet, and worked with the Sikh Coalition on efforts to develop legal arguments and a factual record to support asylum claims based on religious persecution against Sikhs. As a staff attorney at the Religious Freedom Clinic, McDaniel helped lead class discussions on law and religion, clinical lawyering, civil procedure, ethical considerations, interviewing and counseling clients, and more, and supervised and mentored student attorneys in their cases.

McDaniel, a 2012 graduate of UCLA School of Law, has until recently served as an associate at Horvitz & Levy, where he specialized in First Amendment and religious freedom, antitrust, franchise law, insurance, contracts, and arbitration cases. Before that, McDaniel clerked for Judge Cormac J. Carney ’87 on the United States District Court for the Central District of California and Judge Jay S. Bybee on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In 2021, he was named a “One to Watch” by Best Lawyers.