Analysis and Commentary on Speech and Religion

RFRA, Zubik v. Burwell, and the Do No Harm Act

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell, in which the Court via a per curiam opinion declined to interpret the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as applied to the Affordable Care Act. Hamilton also describes the Do No Harm Act, which is a bill proposed this week that attempts to carve out of RFRA some of its worst incentives and inclinations. While Hamilton argues that RFRA should be repealed outright, she acknowledges that the Do No Harm Act is absolutely a step in the right direction.

Chilling Scientific Inquiry

Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda comments on several instances in which the government is chilling scientific inquiry into the question of global warming. Rotunda argues that the marketplace of ideas, rather than the subpoena power of government, should decide what is true or false.

Game’s On: Big Leaguers Zimmerman & Howard Versus Al Jazeera

Former counsel to the president John W. Dean continues his discussion of the defamation lawsuits filed by Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and by Washington Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman against Al Jazeera America (AJAM). Dean assesses defendant AJAM’s motions to dismiss both cases for failure to describe facts that give rise to a plausible entitlement to relief, a requirement under federal law.

Supreme Court Convenes a Settlement Conference

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf comments on a recent unusual order by the U.S. Supreme Court asking for supplemental briefing from the parties to the latest religious challenge to Obamacare. In contrast with other commentators who have described the order as “puzzling” or “baffling,” Dorf explains how the Court’s order resembles something federal district courts do on a routine basis: facilitate settlement of the dispute.

The Obama Administration Draws Back From the Precipice of Theocracy

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton describes two recent events that indicate that the United States remains dedicated to a culture of freedom and tolerance, rather than moving toward theocracy. As Hamilton explains, the federal government has taken action against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for establishing a theocracy on the border of Utah and Arizona, and also for money laundering and food stamp fraud.

A Specific Proposal That Helps Give Us a Sense of What Getting Rid of Citizens United Might Entail

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar examines California’s Proposition 49—which seeks the voters’ approval for the California legislature to ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC—in order to shine light on what might be required to overturn the decision on a federal level. Amar argues that Proposition 49 highlights just how difficult it would be to craft a workable constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Differing Perspectives on California Law Requiring Pregnancy Clinics to Post Abortion Information

Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb considers the perspectives of both sides of the controversy over a relatively new California law requiring licensed pregnancy centers to prominently post a notice about the availability of free or low-cost abortion, contraception, and prenatal care. Colb offers a compelling narrative to illustrate each perspective, ultimately concluding that while she personally agrees with one side neither is “right” in a moral sense.

What Does Ancient Athens Have to Do With University Protesters?

Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda describes how freedom—specifically freedom of speech—was recognized as important as far back as ancient Athens, and how it remains important in the United States today, not only for its inherent value but also in setting an example for the rest of the world to use. Rotunda argues that when the United States restricts speech, other countries will use our example to justify their own repression.

In Defense of Justice Scalia on Religious Liberty and Smith

In honor of the recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the Court’s decision in Employment Div. v. Smith, in which Justice Scalia wrote for the majority holding that a law is constitutional under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment if it is facially neutral and generally applied. Hamilton lauds the decision as striking the right balance between liberty and harm, and between religious diversity and religious tyranny.

Godly Rhetoric in Presidential Campaigns: Cruz, Rubio, and Reagan

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the use of religious terms in among the Republican presidential candidates, particularly terms that refer to a specific religio-political world view. Hamilton especially critiques Cruz’s and Rubio’s invocation of Ronald Reagan’s name, pointing out that Reagan tried to bring Americans together in his speeches, even in his references to God.

How Un-rule-y is the First Amendment?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers an issue on which the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral argument: whether the First Amendment protects a government employee from adverse action based on the government’s mistaken belief that the employee was engaged in speech or association. Dorf highlights the nuances of the case and whether there is a meaningful difference between rule-guided conduct and reason-guided conduct.

Heading for The Dark Side of Journalism

Former counsel to the president John W. Dean continues his discussion of the controversial investigative report by Al Jazeera Investigates that implicates several elite American athletes of illegal doping. Dean discusses the two lawsuits filed in federal court in the District of Columbia and the possible role an anti-SLAPP statute might play in those lawsuits.

The Supreme Court Could Hear a Third License Plate Case

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf comments on a case involving free speech on license plates that may reach the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future. As Dorf points out, if the Court agrees to hear the case, it will be the third major license plate case it has decided. Dorf argues that the appeals court in the present case most likely erred in failing to protect the plaintiff’s right against compelled speech, but a broadly written Supreme Court opinion reversing the lower court could potentially undermine anti-discrimination law.

Donald Trump and the Need for Civil, Accurate Discourse

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton argues that Donald Trump and his extreme comments illustrate the need for civil, accurate discourse, rather than blunderbuss and showmanship. Hamilton points to the work by the Program in Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania, which is conducting a social experiment that shows that people from different sides of the political/religious divide can have a meaningful conversation and reach agreement for the common good.

The Opposite of ISIS Is the First Amendment, And Its Members Are Extremist Islamic Terrorists

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton argues that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution stands for the opposite of everything that ISIS stands for, and furthermore, that denying the religious roots of Islamic terrorists does a disservice both to peaceful Muslims and to the public at large. Hamilton points out that by identifying ISIS as religious extremists, we can better accept that they are dogmatic, unbending fundamentalists rather than mere political actors.

Pope Francis Visits Philadelphia and Promises No More Secrets

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the recent visit by Pope Francis to Philadelphia on the ten-year anniversary of the release of the landmark Grand Jury Report on Sexual Abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Hamilton argues that now is the time for state legislators to eliminate statutes of limitations for civil sex abuse suits and revive those claims that have expired due to short statutes of limitations.

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 Col... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

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

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

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

John Dean
John Dean

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

She is an expert in an expert in sex discrimination law. Her most recent book, more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the leading church/state scholars in the United States and the Paul R. V... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney, writer, and 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 i... 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