FOR LAW STUDENTS
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM & LIFE
Being a Blessing to Our Neighbors in Need – Chris Purnell
Attorney, Center for Law & Religious Freedom
Laura has been working in the Center since 2016, with a focus on ABA Model Rule 8.4(g). In a previous life, Laura practiced intellectual property law, both litigation and patent prosecution, for over 20 years. Laura began her IP law career at Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione in Chicago, working closely with one of CLS’ founders, Henry Brinks. She then served as in-house patent counsel for BASF. Family brought her to the DC area where she joined an IP group that worked at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, DLA Piper and finally at Squire Patton Boggs LLP, where Laura was elected to the partnership. She resigned after the birth of her fourth child and spent some time at home before returning to work. She was of counsel for Troutman Sanders immediately prior to joining CLS. Laura is a graduate of North Carolina State University (BS, Chemistry) and The George Washington University Law School. Laura lives in northern Virginia with her husband David and whichever of their six children happens to be in residence at the time.
Director, Law School Fellows
Mike Schutt is the director of CLS Law School Fellows program. He worked for CLS for nearly 20 years but is now the CEO of Worldview Academy. He continues to run our Fellows program because he remains passionate about helping law students understand their calling. Professor Schutt taught at Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach and practiced law in Fort Worth, Texas with Thompson & Knight. He is an honors graduate of the University of Texas School of Law.
Mike is the author of Redeeming Law: Christian Calling and the Legal Profession (InterVarsity Press 2007), a vocational exhortation for law students and lawyers. His other publications include Oliver Wendell Holmes and the Decline of the American Lawyer: Social Engineering, Religion, and the Search for Professional Identity, 30 RUTGERS L. J. 143 (1998) and What’s A Nice Christian Like You Doing in a Profession Like This? 11 REGENT U. L. REV. 137 (1998-99). He has also authored supplements on biblical principles for use by his students in the law school classroom.
He lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas, with his wife, Lisa. They share three children, three children-in-love, and many beautiful grandchildren.
Chief Financial Officer
Peter Smith as Chief Financial Officer is a seasoned professional with over 25 years of experience in finance and accounting, specializing in the nonprofit sector. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and Finance from Oral Roberts University and earned his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Regent University. Peter is a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and is committed to the highest standards of professional excellence.
Peter has a passion for financial stewardship and strategic financial management within the nonprofit ministry landscape. He takes great pride in navigating the unique challenges and opportunities inherent in this sector with the aim to contribute significantly to the success of organizations dedicated to making a positive impact on the world for Christ.
He is married to Melanie, a Christian lawyer, and together they have three daughters. Peter values work-life balance, recognizing the importance of both professional accomplishments and personal connections. His hobbies include photography, sailing, and playing the guitar.
Executive Director& CEO
David Nammo has served as executive director and CEO of Christian Legal Society since 2012.
He is the former executive vice president of the Leadership Project for America, where he worked closely with conservative leaders such as former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese, Publisher Al Regnery, Club for Growth founder Steve Moore, and U.S. Rep. David McIntosh, in preparation for the 2012 election cycle.
He also was the executive director of the Family Research Council Action (FRCA), the 501(c)(4) arm of the Family Research Council, where he worked on political issues, interfaced with Congress, and met with candidates from across the country. He also started the first PAC for the Family Research Council and engaged in the 2008 election cycle in over 40 states.
David consulted and worked for a variety of employers over several years, including Gammon & Grange, a Virginia law firm; defense consultants for the Defense Intelligence Agency, and as a sole practitioner practicing trademark and business contract law. His prior employment at the Christian Legal Society was as the former director of attorney and law student ministries of Christian Legal Society. He also helped found the IVCF/CLS joint taskforce and restarted The Christian Lawyer magazine in 2005.
He has been interviewed by national and international media, including the NBC Nightly News, Fox News, the Associated Press, CBN News, as well as various radio stations from across the country and around the globe. His op-eds have been published in USA Today, the Washington Times, the National Review, and many online news sites. Prior to attending law school at both George Mason University School of Law and Chicago-Kent College of Law, David worked as a journalist for the Fox News Service, a Middle East wire service, and WTTG-TV in Washington D.C.
David writes an occasional blog called Babylonian Thoughts, given his Chaldean heritage, as the son of a Christian-Iraqi. He is co-owner of a record label out of Southern California. He resides in Northern Virginia with Laura, his wife (a patent attorney), their six children, a cat, and a St. Bernard dog.
Chief Operations Officer
Soon after meeting his would-be wife of 31 years, Brian Patlen gave his life to Jesus Christ in what was a “Paulian” conversion. But it wasn’t until a few years later that he really began to seek wisdom and study GOD’s Word which has been a personal commitment for the past 25 years. Professionally, Brian Patlen is a 32-year career veteran of many industries. He began as a chemist in the environmental field, worked his way up through various management roles, was an entrepreneur in business quality systems, auditing, business consulting and most recently served in several director-level positions. During this long career, he has learned and experienced what GOD tells us in Proverbs 16:9 “A person plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps” which is especially fitting given the many seemingly disparate businesses he has been involved in. Throughout this time, he has received recognition and awards at various times but all of these he refers to as “the wall of hay and stubble.” In contrast, there are real walls adorned with pictures of children and family along with their stories and victories which he calls “the precious walls.” Brian Patlen is married to his college sweetheart, Wendy, has four children, one grandchild and another on-the-way.
Courtney Herron is the the director of development for Christian Legal Society. A graduate of Regent University (M.A. Political Management) and the University of Central Florida (B.A. Political Science/Business), she has worked in nonprofit fundraising since 2002. An advocate for underserved communities, she recently served on the Board of Directors of Let My People Go, a national nonprofit ministry dedicated to empowering the local church to fight human trafficking, and is a foster care advocate in her community.
Brent practiced transactional law in the Chicago area for forty years, specializing in corporate business and non-profit work. That practice was split about equally between private practice as a partner at two law firms and in-house corporate practice for two publicly-traded companies, first as an Associate Counsel and then as General Counsel. As of December 31, 2014 he retired from the practice of law.
Brent has sought to integrate his Christian faith and his law practice through (i) the Christian Legal Society (as former Board member and President and now Staff member, working with lawyers and law students); (ii) Peacemaker Ministries and Crossroads Resolution Group (as a Certified Christian Conciliator for conflict resolution, mentor and teacher); (iii) Administer Justice (whose mission is to meet the legal and spiritual needs of the poor) and (iv) Judson University (as a Business Law Adjunct Professor).
Over these years, Brent has been a speaker and teacher at national, regional and local law-related conferences.
Brent serves as an Elder, Community Group Coordinator and Leader at his Church.
Sports and grandparenting are his two favorite extra-curricular activities.
Brent is married to Sherrie (his “better seven-eights”) and has been blessed with two children and six grandchildren.
Of Counsel, Center of Law& Religious Freedom
Kim Colby has worked for Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom since graduating from Harvard Law School in 1981. She has represented religious groups in several appellate cases, including two cases heard by the United States Supreme Court. She has filed numerous amicus briefs in federal and state courts. In 1984, she assisted in congressional passage of the Equal Access Act, 20 U.S.C. § 4071, et seq., which protects the right of secondary school students to meet for prayer and Bible study on campus. Ms. Colby has prepared several CLS publications addressing issues about religious expression in public schools, including released time programs, implementation of the Equal Access Act, and teachers’ religious expression.
Ms. Colby graduated summa cum laude from the University of Illinois with a major in American History and a particular interest in slavery in colonial North America.
Alanna graduated from the University of Central Florida where she studied interpersonal communication and marketing. She enjoys putting her research skills to work as the grants coordinator in support of the mission of Christian Legal Society. On weekends, Alanna enjoys serving with the two-year-olds at her church.
Director, Law Student Ministries
Anton Sorkin is the director of Law Student Ministries at Christian Legal Society and an affiliate professor at Trinity Law School. He previously practiced employment law and religious freedom litigation. His research and writing is focused on the confluence of law, religion, and public policy – with a number of academic publications in journals that range from the University of Memphis Law Review, Cardozo Journal of Law & Gender, and the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion. Anton has presented his research in various international and domestic forums, including at St. Hugh’s College in Oxford, England; Pepperdine University in Malibu, California; and the University of Ottawa in Ottawa, Canada.
Anton earned a doctorate (SJD) at Emory University School of Law under the supervision of Professor John Witte. He also received an LLM from Emory in law and religion, a JD from Regent University School of Law, and an engineering degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
In his free time, Anton likes discovering new music, attending film festivals, discussing political theology, and dabbling in the game of golf. He has a passion for strengthening Christian students to live out their faith in the complexity of the modern condition. He also seeks to engage in pressing questions of concern by studying various mediums through which pain is processed and displayed.
Attorney Ministries Coordinator
Ariana Finley is the Attorney Ministries coordinator at Christian Legal Society. Ariana graduated from Liberty University May of 2022, using her time there to serve in various dormitory spiritual leadership positions while earning her bachelor’s in information technology. In addition to her spiritual leadership and technological experiences, she also has a background in content writing. Some of Ariana’s favorite pastimes include writing, enjoying sports, and spending time with her family.
Law Student Ministries Coordinator
Michelle Williams graduated summa cum laude from Longwood University with a BS in therapeutic recreation and minor in abnormal psychology. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. In her career, Michelle has worked as a recreation therapist in various settings, including rehab, pediatric & psychiatric hospitals, drug and addiction services and with at risk youth, etc., and is a wilderness outdoor leader.
She was in long term care for 13 years and was the national peer team leader for Erickson retirement communities. She produced training videos for CMS and then ventured into home health and hospice. It was her honor to design a home health program, which she presented to federal recovery coordinators and received approval by the medical chiefs of staff, enabling the most critically wounded warriors from Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn to go home to their families.
Her most recent work has been in disability advocacy. Currently, she is the ministry site director for Youth for Christ at Fort Belvoir Army base. Michelle volunteers in her community facilitating combat trauma recovery courses focusing on the moral and spiritual wounds of war. She has been involved in lay ministry for over 20 years, some of which include jail, evangelism, singles, motorcyclist ministry, and Deacon, along with being a board member of multiple organizations. She is a Christian Life and Leadership coach. Her honors include National Academic All American, Academic All American, silver star award recipient for being a top producer in NE region.
Her greatest honor is being a mom of two and a new nana. Her greatest passions are serving our Lord and justice. Her favorite recreation pursuit is riding her horse.
Director, Center for Law & Religious Freedom.
Steve McFarland is the former vice-president and chief legal officer of World Vision, Inc., a Christian international relief, development, and advocacy ministry serving vulnerable children worldwide. He has been practicing law for over 40 years in both private practice and public service and specializes in the defense of religious freedom. He worked as the director of the Center For Law & Religious Freedom of Christian Legal Society for the first time from 1991 through 1999. While at CLS, he was one of the leaders of a coalition that drafted and passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, considered two of the greatest religious freedom laws in American history; oversaw the filing of amici curiae briefs in 18 cases on appeal; and advised in numerous religious freedom cases. He departed CLS after being appointed as the first executive director of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. He also spearheaded the President’s Faith-Based and Community Initiative in the U.S. Department of Justice. Steve developed programs for prisoners abroad as a vice-president of Prison Fellowship International. He now returns to Christian Legal Society at his previous position as the director of the Center for Law & Religious Freedom.
Christian Legal Society is a non-denominational Christian membership association whose members participate in the broad and rich variety of Christian congregational life and traditions. Membership in Christian Legal Society is open to all who believe in and sign CLS’ Statement of Faith.
As most recently reaffirmed by CLS’ Board of Directors on May 4, 1996, CLS “affirms that the Society welcomes believers in Jesus Christ of all denominations and traditions consistent with the Christian Legal Society Statement of Faith.” Subsequently, the CLS Board of Directors has approved a CLS Community Life Statement and its principles, which informs all CLS ministries and is affirmed by all officers (local and national), directors, and staff.
All officers, directors, members, advisory council members, and staff of CLS shall, as a condition of their employment or membership in CLS, acknowledge in writing their acceptance of, and agreement with the following Statement of Faith, as set forth in Article II, Section 1 of CLS’ corporate by-laws, as amended:
Joseph (“Joe”) A. Ruta has been an attorney in New York City for 30 years. He began a solo practice of law in Manhattan in 1994, after being out of law school for only two years. Joe grew the practice by forming a partnership with Steven Soulios in 2001 and then adding Demetrios Stratis as a partner in 2011. The practice deals with various civil litigation, corporate, employment, real estate, bankruptcy and non-profit matters. Joe also currently serves as outside general counsel to over 30 companies including public and national not-for-profit organizations. He has successfully litigated religious freedom, religious discrimination, and right of conscience matters in state and federal courts.
Joe graduated valedictorian of Marist College in 1989 after having attended Oxford University during his junior year abroad and winning Marist’s first debate championship in the college’s history as a sophomore. He then attended Brooklyn Law School as a Richardson Scholar obtaining a J.D. 1992. While in law school, he had the privilege of clerking for the Honorable Harold Baer, Jr. Joe was the president of the New York Metro Chapter of Christian Legal Society from 2002 to 2013 and was a member of the board of directors on a national level for Christian Legal Society from 2008 to 2017. Joe also served on the board of directors of Zarephath Christian Church from 2011 to 2017, ending his tenure as vice chair. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife of 26 years, and they have three children.
Director, Attorney Ministries
Lakuita Bittle is the director of Attorney Ministries at Christian Legal Society. Previously, Lakuita worked for the Office of the State’s Attorney for Prince George’s County (Maryland), which she joined in 2015 as a law clerk in the Grand Jury Unit. She was sworn in as an Assistant State’s Attorney in 2017 where she first handled misdemeanor criminal and jailable traffic cases before prosecuting cases involving domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, motor vehicle theft, armed robbery, attempted murder, and other related felonies. Lakuita is a graduate of David A. Clarke School of Law at The University of the District of Columbia. Lakuita also has her associate’s degree from Guilford Technical Community College and her bachelor’s degree in sociology from High Point University. Lakuita also has over nine years of professional work experience in the legal field prior to attending law school.
Lakuita is actively involved in her church as a deacon and worship leader. She also serves as founding the board vice president and the executive director of Kadesh Community Development Corporation, which provides community outreach and support to families in need in the DC and Maryland areas. In her spare time, Lakuita enjoys music, traveling, mentoring youth, and coaching and playing softball, as well as spending time with friends and family (especially her cherished nieces and nephews).
Annie Bennett is the director of Legal Aid at Christian legal Society. Prior to joining CLS, Annie worked in civil legal aid in Washington, D.C., representing clients at all stages of complex custody and domestic violence matters. Throughout her time in legal aid, Annie also provided brief legal services to indigent clients facing a variety of civil legal issues, including housing conditions, evictions, and consumer issues. Annie earned her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law. Before law school, Annie taught 8th grade and earned a Masters in instructional practice from Lipscomb University. Her interest in advocating on behalf of children goes back to her studies at Vanderbilt University, where she studied education policy. Annie is dedicated to God’s call to uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed, and she is passionate about empowering all attorneys to be confident in their ability to take up that call.
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