Analysis and Commentary on Speech and Religion
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.”

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.

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 Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law and Director of the Center of Labor and... 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