Marci A. Hamilton—a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars—argues that the biggest threats to herd immunity against COVID-19 are federal and state religious liberty statutes and religious/philosophical exemptions. Hamilton describes how the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and its state-law equivalents came to be in the United States, and she calls upon legislators at all levels to amend RFRA so that once we have developed an effective and safe vaccine, we might as a country develop herd immunity and prevent more unnecessary deaths.
University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton draws upon a strategy used by anti-abortion advocates in suggesting a way to encourage (or coerce) more people into wearing masks to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Hamilton proposes requiring persons who opt not to wear a mask in public (1) to watch, on a large screen, an adult's beating heart for 30 seconds, and (2) to be read a statement about how their decision unreasonably endangers others.
NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and rising 2L Elisabeth H. Campbell argues that a liability shield for companies who follow federal administrative guidance in reopening workplaces during COVID-19 will not lead to significantly less litigation, nor will it help ensure workplaces are safe. Estreicher and Campbell explain why the liability shields being proposed would not preclude protracted litigation.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—discusses the crisis the COVID-19 pandemic is having on America’s jails and prisons. Sarat argues that early release is a good start, but it cannot be the only solution, because all people, in and out of prisons, deserve to be treated with dignity.
University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton argues that the President does not have the power to order states to open houses of worship during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hamilton discusses the limitations on federal power with respect to states and religious entities and praises the wise members of the clergy who are resisting opening before it is safe.
In this second of a series of columns about the COVID-19 protests, Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies argues, with some caveats, that workers have the moral authority to reopen their businesses in order to sustain themselves. Margulies notes that while he is not advising anyone to disobey the law (and while he personally supports the lockdown orders), business owners facing the impossible decision whether to follow the law or sustain themselves and their families are morally justified in defying the stay-at-home orders.
In this second of a two-part series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is incorrect in claiming that the reason Democratic-led states are in trouble is that they are providing excessively generous pensions to retirees who worked for state and local governments. Buchanan then examines a workaround, first described by Professor Darien Shanske of the University of California at Davis, that would allow the Federal Reserve to give assistance to states and cities without interference from Republicans in the Senate or the White House.
Austin Sarat— Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—comments on the decision by the conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court halting the state’s stay at home order. Sarat points out that the opinion recapitulates, without acknowledgment, debates in analytic jurisprudence about the distinction between orders and rules, and he argues that while the decision may be good for the Trump campaign, it puts at risk the lives and well-being of Wisconsin’s citizens.
In this first of a series of columns about federal relief to state and local governments, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan provides the economic background to explain how unprecedented these times are and argues that supporting cities and states is essential to surviving this crisis.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone assess President Trump’s suggestion that federal aid to state and local governments might be conditioned on their willingness to abandon their “sanctuary” policies and assist the federal government in immigration enforcement. Although Amar and Mazzone expect those federal spending conditions not to be realized, they use the President’s comment to list and describe some unanswered fundamental constitutional questions in the conditional spending arena.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Stanford law professor Lawrence M. Friedman discuss the implications of COVID-19 restrictions on the execution of wills and marriage. Grossman and Friedman point out that the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates, among other things, how quickly and universally Americans rush into court, demanding from judges legal solutions to ethical, political, and social issues.
Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies comments on the protests that have erupted over COVID-19 restrictions. Margulies argues that because the state cannot (or will not) live up to its end of the social contract by committing to sustain people’s livelihood for the duration of the restrictions, the protests are morally legitimate.
NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and 2L Elisabeth H. Campbell describe the wide array of laws that will need to come into play to keep workers safe and avoid employer liability as workplaces consider reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, cautioning that compliance will not necessarily relieve employers of the risk of litigation and liability. Estreicher and Campbell discuss applicable recommendations, guidelines, and requirements set forth by such agencies as the U.S. Department of Labor, which is responsible for administering the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC).
Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies observes that the COVID-19 pandemic reveals our shared equality as individuals but also lays bare the inequality of American society. Margulies argues that equality is an outcome achieved by one in aid to another, and by government in aid to all in need.
NYU law professors Samuel Estreicher and Jonathan F. Harris describe how the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing the United States to confront the problem of unchecked globalization. Estreicher and Harris argue that once the pandemic subsides, U.S. policymakers should, as a matter of national security, mandate that a minimum percentage of essential supplies be manufactured domestically.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler discuss the abortion bans implemented in several states in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Grossman and Ziegler explain why the bans are unconstitutional and comment on the connection between the legal challenges to those bans and the broader fight over abortion rights.
UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin points out ways in which religions harm people—manifested today as an insistence on exemptions to social COVID-19 distancing orders. Griffin argues that telling the truth about religion should not be viewed as a form of discrimination and endorses Katherine Stewart’s recent book, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, which provides a detailed explanation of how the Religious Right has used its power to advance religion-based government in harmful ways.
University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton writes an open letter to President Donald Trump asking that he not reopen the country until everyone has appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Hamilton argues that the President should exercise his power under the Defense Production Act to repurpose U.S. factories to make masks and gloves until everyone who needs them has them.
Kathryn Robb, executive director of CHILD USAdvocacy, describes how the COVID-19 pandemic uniquely endangers children who are being sexually abused by people close to them. Robb describes ways in which teachers, coaches, and other adult figures in children’s lives must do to ensure the safety of children in this time when schools and other safe spaces are shut down.
Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that governors and lawmakers should not be granting religious exemptions to stay-at-home orders imposed due to COVID-19. Hamilton points out that there are two prerequisites for legitimate religious exemptions, and the exemptions granted in twelve states have met neither.