Fighting for Religious Freedom in the Supreme Court

Emily Hardman (BS '06, JD '10) was the PR mastermind behind five US Supreme Court wins having to do with religious liberty; read about her road to success in her own words.

I was at Utah State University living the dream – full scholarship, student leadership, great friends, family nearby, and an amazing job as a legal assistant in an office I loved. And then one day I woke up with an undeniable feeling I needed to transfer to BYU. I tried to push it aside, thinking it was just a bad dream—I had grown up an Aggie, raised by Aggie parents, with Aggie siblings, in an Aggie community, and going to BYU was never a consideration. But the thought persisted, and I knew the source. And then I cried. I didn’t want to go. I was supporting myself through college and I knew I couldn’t get a four-year scholarship as a transfer student. I didn’t have a job in Provo. And I couldn’t run home with all my friends for mashed potatoes and roast on Sundays. But I went, and my decision to attend BYU began a crucial chain of events that got me to where I am today.

At BYU I was introduced to a law professor I was fortunate enough to work with. Because of his recommendation, I got an internship with Edwin Meese III, 75th US Attorney General, which then became a full-time job. After that experience I was prepared to attend BYU law. And because of those things, I got the job at Becket Law.  

I was escorted to my new office by a kind but slightly confused staff member. “Welcome to the team,” he said. “It’s great that we’re finally going to have a communications department. Not sure what or how you’re going to do it, but good luck.” It was true, I was founding a department in a small, unknown civil rights law firm. My instructions the first day included creating a strategic plan for the department and a communication plan for one of the biggest religious liberty cases we have ever filed; do all of this from scratch; and let them know if I had any questions. I set three goals for our organization: 1) achieve national prominence for the cause of religious freedom; 2) influence elite media to better understand and more favorably cover religious freedom issues; and 3) change public opinion on important religious liberty cases by telling compelling stories. Our work attracted national attention: The Associated Press called us a “powerhouse law firm”; TIME magazine wrote a glowing profile story; the National Law Journal highlighted our media work; and the American Prospect credited our Supreme Court victory to the way we told our clients’ story. And when the New York Times grumbled at the success of our media efforts in the Little Sisters of the Poor case, I knew we had arrived.

But I knew I had to share what I learned with others. Not only were these skills essential for the modern lawyer, I felt they were essential for defending truth in the public square. And so with the encouragement, help, and support of Dean Belnap and Dean Hurt at BYU Law, I created the first-ever comprehensive legal course on Litigating in the Court of Public Opinion.

All of this happened because I attended BYU. I can never fully express how grateful I am for BYU and BYU Law, which changed my life. I have been on a journey I never imagined—defending religious minorities from Anglicans to Zoroastrians with Muslims, Mormons, and Mennonites in the middle. I found myself in the inner circle of a Native American pow-wow, surrounded by former convicts at ministry halfway house, and praying in the home of the angelic Little Sisters of the Poor. It has been an amazing journey, and I hope to give back with all I have received.

In addition to publicity for religious liberty, Hardman has also been in the news for her unique engagement and wedding story. Read and watch about how and why she planned her wedding to Robert W. Reading Jr. (BS ’01, MBA ’03) in five days:

New York Times Op-Ed by Emily

New York Times follow-up story, by NYT

GMA segment

Full Name: 
Emily Hardman
Grad Year: 
BS 2006, JD 2010
College: 
Family, Home, and Social Sciences
Major: 
Family Life
Author: 
Emily Hardman (BS '06, JD '10)...
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