Analysis and Commentary on Speech and Religion
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.”

Goodbye to the Establishment Clause

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, in which the Court allowed a public-school football coach to lead players in his public Christian prayer. Professor Griffin argues that the decision effectively deletes the Establishment Clause from the Constitution and elevates the free exercise rights of a few individuals.

The Supreme Court Further Dismantles the Establishment Clause, Empowers Religious Parents to Obtain Taxpayer Funds for Sectarian Schools, and Ignores the Rights of the Children in Carson v. Makin

University of Pennylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week in Carson v. Makin, in which it held the Free Exercise Clause requires Maine to subsidize religious private schools because it subsidized non-religious private schools. Professor Hamilton argues that the decision further erodes the Establishment Clause and disregards the rights and needs of children.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act Formula Comes Full Circle in Florida

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton comments on the recent news that the Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor, a Jewish synagogue in Florida, has sued the state under the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) over its new restrictive abortion laws that it argues violate their religious faith. Professor Hamilton praises the synagogue for leading the charge against an oppressive minority but condemns the tool it must use to do so—RFRA— which Hamilton argues is a tried-and-true path to religious division and mutual intolerance.

Are Religious Abortions Protected?

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb explores a suggestion by some pro-choice advocates that a “religious abortion” might serve as a workaround to the apparently imminent demise of the constitutional right to abortion. Professor Colb explains why that workaround is unlikely to prevail: the current Court discounts the Establishment Clause, and its ostensible embrace of the Free Exercise Clause is actually friendliness only to conservative Christianity (and to Judaism and Islam where the traditions happen to be the same).

Where, If Anywhere, Should People Protest Judicial Decisions?

In light of the leaked Supreme Court opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org. and the resulting protests in front of the homes of some of the Justices, Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf considers where, if anywhere, protests against judicial decisions are appropriate. Professor Dorf notes that under current law, the First Amendment as currently construed by the Supreme Court seems to protect a right to peaceable protest near the home of a judge or Justice so long as: (a) the protesters merely pass by but do not linger at the home; and (b) they do so without the intent to intimidate. However, Professor Dorf also points out that such protest might not always be tactically prudent.

Can Illinois Require Gas Stations to Advertise on Its Behalf?

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on a new Illinois law that would require gas stations to advertise that the state has deferred an increase in the state gas tax. Dean Amar explains why the chances of gas stations prevailing in a federal constitutional challenge to the law are unlikely but not impossible.

Wake Up Good People: Overruling Roe v. Wade Is Just One of the Three Fronts in the Religious War Against America

University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton describes three fronts in the war by religious conservatives against America: (1) the fight against abortion and contraception, supported by a minority of Americans, (2) a demand that those who share the same religious beliefs should be above the law, and (3) a demand that religious entities be treated “equally” with any others receiving government dollars. Professor Hamilton calls upon the majority of Americans—including congresspeople—who don’t share these beliefs to act and vote, and to stop deferring to religious actors before they turn our country into a theocracy.

What Did the Justices Say About Football Prayer? The Oral Argument in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on Monday’s oral argument in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which presents a question about the intersection between the Free Exercise Clause, the Establishment Clause, and government speech jurisprudence. Professor Griffin describes how various Justices approached the case and what we might learn about how they are inclined to vote.

Religious Freedom in Prisons and the Military

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explains how the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent seemingly inconsistent decisions in Ramirez v. Collier and Austin v. U.S. Navy Seals 1–26can be reconciled by examining the nature of the government interests in each case. Professor Dorf points out that while the Court has held judicial deference to prison officials’ expert judgment on security questions impermissible under RLUIPA, it has not (and did not in the Navy Seals case) decided whether deference to the military is compatible with RFRA and whether, if not, RFRA is unconstitutional.

So-Called Cancel Culture Is a Vacant Concept, So It Can Be Turned Back Against the Culture Warriors

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the label of “cancel culture” is a vacant concept, but because of its now widespread use, we should overuse the phrase so as to dilute and mock it. Professor Buchanan points out that, despite current popular opinion, the right to speak is not the same as a right to have other people listen.

Making Sure God Is Welcome in the Execution Chamber

Amherst professor Austin Sarat explains how the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Ramirez v. Collier demonstrates how the conservative Justices prioritize religious freedom over all other values, even speedy executions. Professor Sarat points out that the decision is just the latest waystation on the Court’s determined journey to put religion at the center of American life.

No, America Does Not Have a Free Speech Problem—At Least, Not the One The New York Times’s Editors Imagine

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan responds to a recent editorial in The New York Times lamenting the alleged erosion of the American right to speak one’s mind and voice one’s opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned. Professor Buchanan explains why the editorial board erroneously conflates the right to free speech with an expectation of speech without consequences.

Masterpiece Cakeshop Redux and the Homophobia Exemption from Anti-Discrimination Law

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a case the U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review that presents the question whether the application of a state anti-discrimination law to a web designer who wishes to exclude same-sex couples from her services violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. Professor Colb predicts that the Court is likely to hold that the law as applied to the web designer does violate her free speech right—continuing a pattern of almost exclusively granting homophobes special First Amendment exemptions from anti-discrimination law.

Supreme Court to Decide Between Establishment and Free Exercise in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on a recent case the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear that presents an apparent conflict between the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. Professor Griffin describes the background of the case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District and explains the significance of the legal issues at stake.

Why We Still Like Separation of Church and State

Penn professor Marci A. Hamilton and UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin explain why the separation between church and state is such an important principle in American democracy and describe ways in which this separation is being eroded. Professors Hamilton and Griffin urge courts and lawmakers to keep the states and the nation from being run by the world’s religions.

Hate Crimes and Free Speech

Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb explains why the view that hate crime legislation violates the freedom of speech is incorrect and has radical and undesirable logical implications. Professor Colb points out that speech in this context is used as a basis for inferring a person’s motive, and people generally agree that motive can be a relevant consideration in determining whether certain conduct is permissible.

Beverly Brazauskas’s 2003 Case Against the Diocese

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin describes a recent conversation with Beverly Brazauskas—a woman who in 2003 lost a lawsuit against a Catholic bishop and diocese—in which Brazauskas reflects on her case. Professor Griffin points out that Brazauskas’s loss epitomizes the saying “you can’t win when you go up against the church” because religion in the United States is often treated as above the law.

The Pentagon Papers Case through the Mists of Time: Understanding the Court’s 6-3 Decision in the Most Important First Amendment Case Ever

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in New York Times Co. v. United States, known as the “Pentagon Papers” case, Touro Law professor Rodger D. Citron describes the Pentagon Papers litigation and shows how the whirlwind pace contributed to the lack of consensus in the Court’s decision. Professor Citron draws upon books by James C. Goodale and David Rudenstine and reminds us of the challenges and complications attendant to a case that is celebrated by many today as, in the words of Adam Liptak, “a potent vindication of press freedom.”

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... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... 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 Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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