Kevin “Seamus” Hasson (center), founder of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, receives the Salvatori Prize from Heritage’s Edwin Meese III (left) and Matthew Spalding. Photo: Shealah Craighead/The Heritage Foundation

Noted essayist and scholar Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson, a prominent advocate for religious freedom, today was awarded The Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship.

In 1994, Hasson established the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute that protects the free expression of all faiths. He currently serves as president emeritus of the Washington-based organization.

“An exemplar of principle and character, Seamus Hasson has devoted his life to advancing religious liberty, a cause at the heart of the American project,” said Matthew Spalding, vice president of American studies at The Heritage Foundation and director of its Center for Principles and Politics.

Edwin Meese III, chairman of Heritage’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, joined Spalding in presenting the Salvatori Prize to Hasson during a luncheon in Colorado Springs, Colo., opening the leading Washington think tank’s 35th annual Resource Bank gathering.

Working through courts of law, the court of public opinion and the academy, the Becket Fund is dedicated to the idea that because the religious impulse is natural to humans, religious expression also is natural. It “seeks to protect religious liberty against every form of tyranny over that right,” Spalding said.

Before establishing the Becket Fund, Hasson was a lawyer with the firm of Williams & Connolly inWashington,D.C. He also served in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, advising the White House and Cabinet departments on church-state relations and other constitutional issues. He is a resident ofFairfax,Va.

Heritage annually presents the $25,000 prize, named for the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Henry Salvatori, to an American who advances the principles and virtues of the nation’s Founders. Recent winners include the Tea Party movement, historian David McCullough andPrincetonUniversityprofessor Robert P. George.