Analysis and Commentary on Speech and Religion

Federal District Court Invalidates Idaho “Ag-Gag” Law

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses the implications of a recent decision by a federal district court invalidating an Idaho law that criminalizes entering a “agricultural production facility” under false pretenses and also criminalizes creating an audio or video recording of what takes place there without authorization from the owners—known as an Ag-Gag law.

The Hijacking of the Term “Religious Liberty” for Political Gain

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton explains how politicians have intentionally conflated constitutional religious liberty—which comes from the First Amendment of the Constitution—and statutory religious liberty—which originated in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993—for political gain. Hamilton describes the many differences between these two types of religious liberty and calls upon politicians and journalists to disambiguate the term.

What the Supreme Court Should Have Said in the Confederate Flag Texas License Plate Case

UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., in which the Court held that Texas could, consistent with the First Amendment, reject a specialty license plate design application due to its prominent use of the Confederate battle flag. Amar argues that the Court’s reasoning might lead to problems in future disputes and offers a different rationale for reaching the same result that would have avoided such problems.

The Fifth Circuit Joins the Growing Line of Courts Rejecting RFRA Arguments Against the Affordable Care Act’s Contraceptive Accommodation for Religious Nonprofit Employers

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit holding that RFRA does not immunize religious nonprofits from the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that they notify the government of their beliefs in order to be exempt from paying for their employees’ contraception.

The Significance of the Supreme Court’s Williams-Yulee Decision Upholding Florida’s Regulation of Judicial Elections

UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that has received little attention despite its significance—Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar. In that case, a 5-4 majority of the Court upheld a Florida law that forbids candidates running in contested elections for judicial office from personally soliciting campaign contributions. Amar argues that the ruling provides important insights about First Amendment doctrine and also about the membership of the Roberts Court.

The (Limited) Utility of State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs): Part Two in a Two-Part Series of Columns

UC Davis law professors Vikram David Amar and Alan Brownstein continue their discussion of state religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs). Amar and Brownstein discuss the original purpose of state RFRAs, the pros and cons of enacting a general religious liberty statute as opposed to granting accommodations on a case-by-case basis, and the best way for states to move forward in light of these considerations.

Why Can Clergy Opt Out of Same-Sex Marriage?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers the intricacies of a question Justice Antonin Scalia posed during last week’s oral argument in the same-sex marriage cases—whether, if the Court finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, clergy who will not officiate at same-sex weddings must thereby forfeit the power to officiate at opposite-sex weddings.

How Best to Understand State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs): Part One in a Two-Part Series of Columns

UC Davis law professors Vikram David Amar and Alan Brownstein discuss state religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs). In this first of a two-part series of columns, Amar and Brownstein argue that whether a state RFRA should apply in private litigation should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Some “Teachable” First Amendment Moments in the Supreme Court’s Oral Argument About Confederate Flags on Texas License Plates

UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar comments on the case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Texas’s rejection of a custom license plate application that included the Confederate flag. Specifically, Amar considers three First Amendment issues raised during the recent oral argument for that case.

What a California Proposal to Authorize the Killing of Gays Says About the Initiative Process and the First Amendment

UC Davis law professors Vikram David Amar and Alan E. Brownstein discuss the so-called “Sodomite Suppression Act”—a recently proposed California initiative. Amar and Brownstein argue that despite the clear illegality and immorality of the proposed initiative, many of the suggestions that the attorney who proposed it be punished or that the initiative process be altered to prevent these types of initiatives are themselves unconstitutional in some cases, and at best ill-advised in other cases.

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

Joanna L. Grossman is the Sidney and Walter Siben Distinguished Professor of Family Law at the Mauri... 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