Analysis and Commentary on Speech and Religion

What We Really Mean by the Culture War

Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies points out that teaching about religion is substantially different from promoting one religion at the expense of another, or of promoting religiosity at the expense of agnosticism or atheism. Margulies argues that a San Diego school district’s choice to teach about Islam promotes a safe climate of respect and toleration, notwithstanding claims that it has “surrendered” to Sharia law.

An English Teacher Corrects Shakespeare

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda critiques an English professor at Northern Arizona University for insisting that a student use the word “humankind” rather than “mankind.” Rotunda points out that the origin of the English word “man” encompasses both sexes and that for English professors (or any instructor) to force students to use certain words and shun others is an abuse of the power of words.

The Children Be Damned . . .

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, describes the numerous child-endangering bills that are being proposed in various states across the nation. Hamilton argues that we as a society need to create a culture that works for the best interest of all children.

The Real Religious Liberty Deficits Right in Front of Us

Marci Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania and leading church/state scholar, outlines what the United States must do to restore true religious liberty under the First Amendment, rather than go down the path of extreme religious liberty supported by right-wing Christian lobbyists. Hamilton argues that President Trump needs to remove Steve Bannon, unhinge himself from the extreme religious right, and open his eyes to the plain discrimination directly in front of him.

The Religious Liberty Draft Executive Order and the Risks to Children

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, describes how extremely broad President Trump’s draft executive order on religious liberty, explaining how its breadth could have huge negative effects on children, LGBTQ individuals, and many others. Hamilton argues that the executive order is even broader than RFRA and that it poses both known and unknown risks to children.

Philadelphia’s Ban on Employers Asking Job Applicants for Salary History Raises Interesting First Amendment Questions

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar and UC Davis Law professor Alan Brownstein discuss a law the Philadelphia mayor recently signed into law that prohibits employers in that city from asking job applicants to provide their past salary data, in an attempt to reduce the wage gap between men and women. Amar and Brownstein specifically consider some of the arguments that the law violates the First Amendment.

The Religious Liberty Shell Game Needs to End Now Before the Civil Rights of Women and LGBTQ Recede into History

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, reminds of the distinction between constitutional rights and statutory rights. Hamilton argues that the so-called right to religious liberty used to excuse discrimination against LGBTQ individuals derives from federal statutes that were enacted out of animus in the first place.

The Sunshine the Constitution Craves: Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep, Protesters, and Boycotters Should Not Stop Now

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, defends those protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration this week in the face of those calling for “unity.” Hamilton argues that “unity” in this case is simply a euphemism for “uniformity” and that the very democratic process demands that the people speak out and have their voices heard.

This Holiday Weekend, Try Not to Be Penn State

Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, points out that for many victims of child sexual abuse, the holiday season is a time of torture of revisiting painful memories, rather than joy. Hamilton calls upon us to address the problem of child sex abuse directly by changing the laws, teaching the adults, reforming the institutions, and supporting the victims.

How the Conservative Religious Coalition Won the 2016 Election— Part I: Education

In this first of a three-part series of columns, Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains the U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence that allowed a conservative religious coalition to implant itself in the American public education system. Hamilton argues that the coup de grâce of this movement is Donald Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos to Education Secretary, signaling a focus on ideology over the best interests of children.

Labeling Moderate Muslims As Anti-Muslim Extremists

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda discusses the controversial designation of Maajid Nawaz, a practicing Muslim, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born former Muslim, as “hateful extremists” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Rotunda argues that SPLC should reconsider its criteria for labeling someone an extremist, and he points out ways in which SPLC’s labeling system is inconsistent and misguided.

Timothy Dolan Implements the Penn State Playbook for Child Sex Abuse Victims: The Best Argument Yet for SOL Reform

Marci Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, comments on the recent announcement by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Commission intended to help some clergy sex abuse victims in the New York City Archdiocese. Hamilton describes Dolan’s mixed record on justice for sex abuse victims but hails the latest development as a step in the right direction.

The Scandalous Religious Liberty Project of this Era: Rights to Discriminate, Harass, and Harm at Will

A Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, Marci Hamilton comments on disclosure requirement and the non-discrimination component of California SB-1146. Hamilton argues that religious entities continue to demand the freedom to discriminate and harass, while insisting on calling it “religious liberty.”

The Vexing Nature of California’s Attempt to Protect Free Speech Through its Anti-SLAPP Statute

University of Illinois dean and law professor Vikram David Amar comments on a recent case that highlights the challenging nature of California’s attempt to protect free speech through its anti-SLAPP statute. Amar describes the background of the case as well as the larger problems that arise when applying the Anti-SLAPP law to discrimination and harassment lawsuits.

What Do the Satanic Temple and Jehovah’s Witnesses Have in Common? They Are Champions Against Government Inculcation of Belief

Marci Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how the Satanic Temple is fighting the same fight Jehovah’s Witnesses started—to keep the government from imposing tenets of any specific religion on all citizens despite their faith. Hamilton describes the history of this issue in the United States and discusses the current lawsuit involving the Satanic Temple.

Mississippi, the First Amendment Defense Act, Accommodation, and Apartheid

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton comments on Mississippi’s latest law stigmatizing and marginalizing the LGBTQ community, and compares it to the federal First Amendment Defense Act. Hamilton argues that these divisive and discriminatory laws resemble apartheid in South Africa in that they are purported to be accommodations but in fact are simply immoral and wrong.

Hooray! Finally Dropping the Blinders, Religious Leaders Are Calling Out Terrorists, Haters, Pedophiles and the Institutions that Enable Them

Cardozo law professor Marci A. Hamilton describes a relatively new phenomenon of religious leaders coming together to criticize bad acts—even bad acts perpetrated by people who purport to be religious themselves. Hamilton explains how for too long, religious actors seemed beyond reproach no matter what they did, simply by nature of being religious. She expresses great relief that such a period seems to be passing, as evidenced by the widespread support for the LGBTQ community in response to the recent shooting at the Orlando gay club Pulse.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Befo... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has w... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of L... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States, a Fox Distinguis... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of... more

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more