Analysis and Commentary on Speech and Religion
Was the Federal District Court Correct in Dismissing Disney’s Speech-Retaliation Case Against Florida Officials?

UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar, Illinois Law professor Jason Mazzone, and Illinois Law’s First Amendment Clinic director Lena Shapiro examine the legal intricacies and constitutional debates surrounding a federal district court’s dismissal of the Disney Corporation’s lawsuit against Florida officials, in which Disney alleges retaliatory action for Disney’s criticism of Florida laws by changing the governance of the land regulating Disney World. The authors highlight the complexity of First Amendment issues involved, the precedent set by prior cases, and the broader implications for speech regulation and governmental retaliation, suggesting areas for deeper academic exploration.

The Religious Liberty Step Too Far That Could Destroy the Common Good If We Let It

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton discusses the transformation of religious liberty in the United States into a force that can harm others, critiquing the misuse of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the rise of radical religious liberty law. Professor Hamilton argues that while religious liberty includes the absolute right to believe and speak about one's religion, it should not extend to conduct that harms others, warning against the dangerous trend of using religious liberty as a weapon against marginalized groups and advocating for a return to the original principles of the First Amendment.

When Free Speech Isn’t Free

Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the complex and often costly nature of exercising free speech, particularly in the wake of controversial statements made by universities and their students about the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel on October 7. Professor Sarat highlights the backlash faced by those who have spoken out, from university donors withdrawing support to law firms rescinding job offers, and he argues that while free speech is a right, it is not without significant repercussions—both socially and professionally.

The Dangerous Allure of Seemingly Inescapable Facts

Cornell professor Joseph Margulies comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis, in which the Court ostensibly held that a Colorado public accommodations law was unconstitutional as applied to website designer Lorie Smith because it compelled her to create artistic content in violation of her religious beliefs. Professor Margulies argues that the decision has potentially far-reaching implications that could return us to the days of Jim Crow—all because the stipulated facts in that case seemed (to some Justices) to lead to an inescapable result.

Another Free-Speech Dustup Arising from A Student-Invited-Speaker Event, This One at Pitt, Highlights Recurring Problems at Universities, and in Free Speech Doctrine

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on another free-speech controversy related to a student-invited speaker at the University of Pittsburgh. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone describe the demand letter sent to Pitt officials by the Alliance Defending Freedom and explain why some of their arguments are on solid legal ground while one is tenuous at best.

Fourth Circuit High School Case from Virginia Offers Controversial, and Seemingly Dubious, Definition of “Disparate Impact” in Equal Protection Challenges

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit involving the admissions policy at a school in Virginia. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone argue that while it’s not clear whether the U.S. Supreme Court will review this case, the issue the case raises is likely to be one the Court takes up soon.

A Colorado High School Graduation Dispute Illustrates Both the Dangers of the So-Called Government-Speech Doctrine and the Need for Better Education From the Supreme Court and the Legal Academy on First Amendment Basics

Illinois Law Dean Vikram David Amar critiques a recent decision by a federal district judge in Colorado on free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Dean Amar points out the essential problems with the court’s reasoning and assesses what those errors might mean about the shortcomings of legal education and the legal system.

First Amendment Challenges to Public University DEI Programs

Illinois Law Dean Vikram David Amar explores some of the difficult questions related to First Amendment challenges to public university diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies and programs. Dean Amar points out that while open-ended balancing tests are often unsatisfying, sometimes—as may be the case with these challenges—they are also the best courts can come up with.

How Did Six Conservative Catholics Become Supreme Court Justices Together?

Penn professor Marci Hamilton and UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin explain how six conservative Catholics were able to be on the U.S. Supreme Court at the same time. Professors Hamilton and Griffin describe how 1970s and 1980s laid the groundwork for today’s conservative Catholic Court and argue that this group is making extraordinary progress toward making the United States a Catholic theocracy.

The Figurative and the Literal: Disagreeable Speech versus Intimidation and Physical Attacks

Continuing his discussion of the incident at Stanford Law School, UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains the essential difference between disagreeable speech and intimidation and threats of physical violence. Professor Buchanan reminds us that the consequences of being disfavored and vulnerable are not a matter being socially unpopular, but matters of life and death.

The Supreme Court is the True Threat

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent Supreme Court oral argument in Counterman v. Colorado, which raises the question of what may constitute a “true threat,” which is outside the scope of First Amendment protection. Professor Dorf argues that, notwithstanding the present case about stalking, the Court’s rulings gutting the Voting Rights Act, greenlighting extreme political gerrymandering, and expanding the scope of the Second Amendment are the true threat to democracy.

How Should Universities Respond to Organized Right-Wing Trolling?

In this second of a series of columns in response to a recent controversy at Stanford Law School, UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan considers how universities should respond to organized efforts to stir up politically useful controversy on campus. Professor Buchanan argues that it is a recipe for disaster to fail to see through the schemes of individuals or organizations who are acting in bad faith and that other universities should not play along.

Friendly Advice for Law Schools Seeking to Inculcate Proper Free-Speech Values and Understandings in Light of the Stanford Episode with Judge Kyle Duncan: Part Two in a Series

In this second of a series of columns in response to the Stanford Law School controversy involving disruption of a federal judge’s speech, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone offer additional thoughts about how to design a training session about the freedom of speech and norms of the legal profession should include. Specifically, Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone discuss (1) when and how educational institutions should themselves speak, (2) the best ways to register disagreement with offensive speakers and messages, and (3) what schools should do about students who say they feel genuinely harmed or unsafe when certain kinds of speakers are present.

A Public Statement About Law Students (and Others) Acting Like Children, from a Fictional University President— Or, the Stanford Incident is Not What You Think

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan assumes the role of president of a fictional university writing in response to the recent “shouting down” incident at Stanford Law School. Specifically, Professor Buchanan takes on the claim some have advanced that the law student protesters were acting like children, and he argues that in fact, the (adult) federal judge behaved in the most juvenile manner.

What Law Students Should Take Away from the Stanford Law School Controversy Involving Disruption of a Federal Judge’s Speech: Part One in a Series

In response to the Stanford Law School controversy involving disruption of a federal judge’s speech, Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone offer thoughts about how to design a training session about the freedom of speech and norms of the legal profession should include. In this first of a series of columns, Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone focus on two key topics: (1) What, precisely is “shouting down” of a speaker, and why can such activity be prohibited and punished? And (2) What About the Venerable Tradition of “Civil Disobedience”?

The Ghost of Anthony Comstock and the Abortion Wars

Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman and professor Lawrence M. Friedman explain why the Comstock Act, an anti-vice law passed 150 years ago but never removed from the books, has recently become noticed again with Republicans’ renewed efforts to ban abortion nationwide. Professors Grossman and Friedman describe the law and the man behind the law, Anthony Comstock, and they argue that the so-called ghost law should remain dead.

George Santos and the Right of Candidates to Lie

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the revelation that George Santos, who is scheduled to take the oath of office as a new member of Congress tomorrow, lied about nearly his entire biography. Professor Dorf explains why the First Amendment likely prevents candidates from being held criminally liable for their lies, but he points out other ways we can sanction candidates who blatantly lie to gain office.

Can SCOTUS Prevent Free Speech from Swallowing Anti-discrimination Law?

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explains the options available to the U.S. Supreme Court as it considers 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which presents a clash between a Colorado law forbidding places of public accommodation from discriminating based on sexual orientation and a conservative Christian web designer’s objection to creating material that, she says, tacitly expresses approval of same-sex marriage. Professor Dorf points out that the Court could conclude that the case does not implicate free speech at all, but instead it will almost surely rule against Colorado, which could pose a potentially existential threat to anti-discrimination law.

Federal Judge Accepts Extravagant Complicity Claim to Exempt Company from Obligation to Provide Lifesaving Medicine

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a recent decision by a federal district judge in Texas holding that a for-profit corporation was entitled to an exception from the legal obligation to provide employees with health insurance covering pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which protections against infection with HIV/AIDS. Professor Dorf explains the absurdity of the court’s conclusion, which is based on an extension of the Supreme Court’s dubious logic in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

Updates on Lawsuits against Religions

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on three recent cases involving lawsuits against religious employers by former employees. Professor Griffin explains the facts and outcomes of each case and argues that the expansive ministerial exception doctrine permits employers to discriminate at will simply by labeling employees as “ministers.”

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is a Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and a Professor... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, is a visiting professor at both Osgoode Hall... more

John Dean
John Dean

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

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

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

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... 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... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

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

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Laurence H. Tribe
Laurence H. Tribe

Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more