Analysis and Commentary on Speech and Religion
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.

Were Planned Parenthood Officials Defamed by Misleading Videos?

Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers to what extent defamation law provides a remedy for people who appear in deliberately misleading audiovisual recordings, as in the recently released videos ostensibly showing senior officials of Planned Parenthood stating prices for selling fetal body parts.

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.

State RFRAs and the Intent to Discriminate: Why the State RFRAs Are in Trouble

Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the danger of state RFRAs, particularly in light of Indiana’s recent passage of such a law. Hamilton cautions that such laws pose a serious threat to society and despite their name, do not “restore” nothing previously in laws.

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.

The Seventh Circuit Injects Common Sense into Religious Liberty Debates with Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors v. Listecki

Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses the recent unanimous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit holding that the Milwaukee Archdiocese is subject to the facially neutral bankruptcy laws against fraud during proceedings, despite its claims, based on free exercise arguments, to the contrary.

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

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

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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