Whether the exclusion of churches from an otherwise neutral and secular aid program violates the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses when the state has no valid Establishment Clause concern.SCOTUSblog's case page has links to all the briefs.
Friday, January 15, 2016
This is big, big news. From Prof. Friedman:
Supreme Court Grants Review In Missouri Blaine Amendment Case
Here's my contribution to a symposium (there are a half-dozen others, too), hosted by the Bleeding Heart Libertarians site, on Jacob Levy's wonderful new book, Rationalism, Pluralism & Freedom (buy your copy here). A bit:
. . .
Jacob is right, it seems to me, to highlight, within the “liberal understanding of freedom,” the “pluralist emphasis on the freedom found within and protected by group life against the power of the state.” He is on firm ground when he insists that “[t]here is no social world without loss” and that “[s]ometimes we will not be able to have the morally best degree of freedom of association and the morally best degree of protection against local tyranny.” And, he correctly reminds us that “[w]e cannot . . . simply point to the moral loss suffered by some relatively powerless or disadvantaged person within an association, religion, or cultural group and conclude that the group constitutes a local tyranny that must be dissolved or overruled by the state.”
He is right about all this, I think, not because religious institutions (or other non-state associations) never act wrongly or never inflict hurt and harm. They do (sometimes), just as liberal states do (sometimes). As I see it—and Jacob’s book is helping me to think harder and, I hope, better about the matter—the liberal practice of respecting the rights of religious and other associations’ distinct, even if non-liberal, practices is not merely a matter of “governance best practices” or a strategy about how to allocate scarce enforcement or litigation resources. Instead, the practice reflects the fact that a (good) liberal, constitutional government accepts—and not grudgingly—as given the fact that reasonable people, associations, institutions, and communities disagree reasonably about things that matter. Such a government is not merely resigned, but resigned comfortably, to the “crooked timber of free society.” . . .
Over at the Liberty Fund's Library of Law and Liberty, I am writing a series of posts that I'm calling collectively "Law
and Tradition," a set of reflections on tradition and law, with a special focus on judicial decision making. My hope is that these posts will offer an introductory set of questions, thoughts, and provocations that can serve as a prologue for further study and reflection for our Center's Tradition Project.
If I dress with a coat and tie every time I teach a class, that is not enough for my sartorial selections to be traditional. It is still not enough if it can be shown empirically that others before and after me have made the same choices. What makes the choice traditional is the social or cultural meaning of my dressing this way. The choice of dress evinces a social awareness of continuity with the past and is pursued intentionally, because of some normative power within the long-standing practice (because dressing with a coat and tie is neat, or because it is professional, or because it is elegant, or because predecessors whom I admire dressed in this fashion, and so on). I dress in this way intentionally to retransmit the past to the present because I believe there is value both in the choices of the past and in their continuity. This self-consciously and normatively chronic quality is probably not the only element comprising the traditionalist view; but it is an important one.
Some might say that the existence of any substantive reasons deprives the practice of dressing with a coat and tie of its traditionalism, because traditionalism implies that a belief or practice is transmitted mindlessly or without any reason. But this strikes me as altogether wrong. In an old essay, Samuel Coleman once gave the following example:
Turkish farmers leave the stones on their cultivated fields. When asked why, they say that is the way it has always been done and that it is better that way. In point of fact, it is. When U.N. agronomists, after considerable exhortation, persuaded some young Turks to remove the stones from their fields, their crops suffered. Apparently the stones help condense and retain the dew in the arid climate, but this was unknown. It may have been known to the originators of the custom, for there is evidence that it was known in biblical times. This apparent fact had been forgotten, while the practice persisted.
Was the practice of laying stones not a tradition when the reason for it was known and passed on? Did it become a tradition only when the reason was forgotten? Is it now no longer a tradition because of the adventitious intervention of the U.N.? The practice itself, as understood by the practitioners of it, is unchanged. No, says Coleman, “we would avoid all sorts of muddle if we did not speak of traditions being transmuted into non-traditions by confirmation of the proposition believed or the practice followed.” There can be, and often is, reason in tradition.
I'm pleased to announce that The Social Equality of Religion or Belief, edited by Professor Alan Carling, will be released in March by Palgrave Macmillan and is now available for pre-order. I have a chapter in the book titled, "The Bloating of the Constitution: Equality and the U.S. Establishment Clause," which, it is probably fair to say, falls on the skeptical side of the book's contributions. Here are the first few lines of my chapter:
The US Establishment Clause is in disorder. There are currently at least six different approaches to interpreting the ‘establishment’ component of the First Amendment injunction that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” (US Constitution, Amendment 1). Tests of church-state separation, non-coercion, secularity, historical practice, non-endorsement and neutrality all have been used by the Supreme Court at one time or another across a broad panoply of cases. Sometimes two or more of these tests have been squeezed together within a single case, with implied reassurances that the result does not really depend upon the test anyway. At levels below the Supreme Court, this sort of doctrinal bricolage is often only prudent self-protective practice by judges compelled by the Court’s opacity to hedge their bets.
I have argued in other work that these doctrinal confusions are in part the result of the Court’s propensity to elevate a single value to master status in evaluating Establishment Clause controversies (DeGirolami 2013). Dependence on equality or neutrality or separationism as the preeminent constitutional touchstone in one case is felt by the Court to be inadequate or incomplete in a second or third; additional tests are thus cobbled together to accommodate what are perceived in subsequent cases to be distinctive circumstances. Single-value theories of the Establishment Clause misconstrue the conflicts at stake by leveling them – compressing them so as to be capable of processing through the filter of the selected value. Call this phenomenon constitutional flattening. One result of constitutional flattening is the multiplication of Establishment Clause theories to remedy the practical deficiencies in any one of them as they are applied case to case.
This Chapter explores a different side effect of monistic approaches to the Establishment Clause: constitutional bloating – the expansion of the scope of the Establishment Clause without the formality of an actual judicial ruling so expanding it. Courts that rely on an abstract value or interest in deciding constitutional controversies bloat the Establishment Clause by trading covertly on its political popularity, conceptual malleability and indeterminacy of meaning. Merely by recurring to or invoking the selected value – always one with vague but deep rhetorical appeal – courts swell the scope of the Establishment Clause without the need explicitly to acknowledge that expansion in their opinions. The problem is not merely that Establishment Clause bloat renders dubious any claims about the predictability of single-value approaches to constitutional adjudication. It is also that judges are thereby licensed to broaden the reach of the Clause by suggestion, allusion, or implication, without openly and clearly stating what they are doing.
The value of equality is by far the most potent and effective instrument of Establishment Clause bloat. This is so for two reasons: first, equality is the overriding legal value of our age – the defining constitutional issue of our time. The rhetorical power of equality is devastating, eliciting in its most ardent adherents something approaching militant zeal. As Steven Smith has put it, “equality is a juggernaut that overwhelms pundits, politicians, and professors, and threatens to flatten individuals or institutions that dare stand up against it” (Smith 2014). Simply to invoke the value of equality in favor of any given outcome is frequently perceived as a self-evident and irrefutable justification for it, one that it would be scandalous to question. Second, equality is multivalent, and equalities of different types may and often do conflict. Equality of opportunity is not equality of outcome; procedural equality of treatment is not the ambitious equality of ‘concern’ or ‘respect’ for every person’s substantive commitments; and though neutrality is a kind of equality, it is not the only kind. Moreover, there may be internal conflicts even within equalities of the same type. The fearsome cultural, legal and political might of equality, coupled with the multiplicity and ambiguity of egalitarian meanings, have united to create a singularly effective tool of Establishment Clause bloat.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
What is the most consequential religious response to same-sex marriage in recent times?
To ask this question is to place same-sex marriage as the status quo and to frame religious responses to it as reactionary. But what if the right answer to the opening question is Justice Kennedy's opinion for the Court in Obergefell v. Hodges itself?
These were some of the thoughts that went into my panel remarks a week ago at the AALS Law & Religion Section.
I've spoken on a number of difficult and sensitive topics before a range of audiences. But participating in that panel had me more twisted up with concern than I can recall for any other panel or talk. So I decided to square up with the audience and identify just how awkward the situation was for me, and why.
I explained that I was there as an unbeliever, speaking to a room packed with true believers. Most in that audience truly believed that the Constitution of the United States forbids states from continuing with the husband/wife understanding of civil marriage. They truly believed that the Supreme Court of the United States appropriately ordered a redefinition of civil marriage in state law. They truly believed that federal law commands what the Supreme Court did.
And I did not. None of it.
That's awkward, isn't it? What could profitably be said between us, when we were so far apart on the main issue?
My basic tack was to argue that there was religion on both sides--that the object of their belief could itself be understood in religious terms. I gave several reasons for understanding Justice Kennedy's constitutionalization of same-sex marriage in Obergefell in religious terms. Among them:
1. The language of the opinion: The opinion speaks in terms of revelation, as I've previously argued.
2. The operative understanding of the Constitution: The Constitution of Obergefell is not an authoritative legal document with fixed, ascertainable legal content. Instead, it is "a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning." Or, as the plurality opinion described the Constitution in Casey: "a covenant ... [with] written terms [that] embody ideas and aspirations that must survive more ages than one."
3. Justice Kennedy's professed self-understanding: In a 2005 interview with the Academy of Achievement, Justice Kennedy said that he thought people would be happiest if they could "find a profession ... where [they] manipulate symbols that have an intrinsic ethical content." That's what he think his job requires. Asked about the most important qualities for achievement in his field, Kennedy answered that it was important to understand that "the framers wanted you to shape the destiny of the country." And that's what he believes he is doing in his constitutional lawmaking.
4. The operative understanding of the judicial role: A case like Obergefell, Kennedy's opinion suggests, does not call for dry legal analysis and cool, detached reasoning. The good judge must respond to the petitioners' stories. The operative understanding of the judicial role is to respond to the petitioners' stories, and the petitioners' hopes, and the universal fear of loneliness (among other things), by enforcing the central meaning of a fundamental right that is now manifest in our basic charter.
5. The social/political/cultural response: "Love wins" is not a typical response to the output of constitutional litigation. Yet people have invoked all of the theological virtues (faith, hope, and love), in describing the opinion. The White House lit up in a rainbow. President Obama described the decision as delivering "justice like a thunderbolt." People are using the opinion as a type of scripture for their marriage ceremonies.
The point of this exercise was not simply, or even primarily, to undermine the legal authority of Obergefell. It is law of a sort, just as any other erroneous Supreme Court decision that has not been overruled is law of a sort. The real point is that Obergefell as religious response does not enable the same type of reasoned disagreement that more typically legal opinions generate. If one does not accept Justice Kennedy's revelation, as I do not, there's not that much to talk about as lawyers. Which is unfortunate. Personal testimonies and conversion certainly have their place in human experience. But these are not the sort of thing that make for good constitutional law.
I was hoping someone would give me a chance to say something about Monday’s oral argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and MOJ-friend Michael Sean Winters graciously obliges over at his blog in a post about the latest “assault” on unions. Michael Sean and I have been around before on some issues about Catholic social teaching and unions, so why stop now?
One can, as I do, subscribe to the Catholic Church’s teaching from Rerum Novarum on about the role of unions in civil society, appreciate much in the insightful paper by Lew Daly to which Michael Sean cites, and yet think all of that has nothing to do with the issues in Friedrichs.
For starters, I think Michael Sean is a little cavalier in writing that Friedrichs is “not really about the First Amendment at all.” That’s a conclusion, not an argument. And on the law of the First Amendment, Friedrichs poses some hard questions (unless, I suppose, one is prepared broadly to countenance compelled subsidization of speech). I am not sure the point of Michael Sean’s initial hypotheticals about violations of trade secrets and trademarks, but the issue in Friedrichs strikes me as quite different. No one doubts that violations of trade secrets and trademarks can be sanctioned. But can the state require as a condition of public sector employment that a non-union member pay an agency fee? That’s a difficult question, and the answer the Court gave almost 40 years ago in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education is badly reasoned (as just one example, by assuming the constitutionality of compulsory payments based on two private sector union cases, Railway Employees’ Department v. Hanson and Machnists v. Street, that dealt with the First Amendment issue in a sentence and not at all, respectively). A cite to Rerum Novarum doesn’t resolve the free speech question.
And then there’s the basic distinction between private and public sector unions. The permissibility of agency dues in the private sector isn’t at issue in Friedrichs (conceded at the outset of oral argument by Michael Carvin), so it’s a little hard to see how this is an all-out “assault” against unions. Nor does Friedrichs question the permissibility of agency shop arrangements in either the public or private sector, only whether non-union members must subsidize a pubic employee union’s political activity—so the arguments in Michael Sean’s penultimate paragraph about union formation seem to me beside the point. The line between collective bargaining and political activity for public sector unions is impossible to draw, and that’s the core of the plaintiffs legal argument against the compulsory agency fee. As Justice Kennedy put it at oral argument:
The union basically is making these teachers compelled riders for issues on which they strongly disagree. Many teachers think that they are devoted to the future of America, to the future of our young people, and that the union is equally devoted to that but that the union is absolutely wrong in some of its positions. And agency fees require, as I understand it—correct me if I'm wrong—agency fees require that employees and teachers who disagree with those positions must nevertheless subsidize the union on those very points.
Finally, could I make a plea here for scholars working on Catholic social thought to spend a little time confronting the classic argument by Ralph Winter and Harry Wellington about public sector collective bargaining before waxing rhapsodic about Rerum Novarum and the unalloyed blessings that unions provide? As Rick Hills put it a while ago, the inelasticity of demand for their services and manipulation of the political process to their advantage means that public employee unions are differently situated than, say, trade unions. There are all sorts of bad policies created when public union-controlled services (prisons and public schools in some areas, for example) are consumed largely by lower income people, which is, at least arguably, part of the reason why we have so many prisons and such bad public schools (as Rick points out, the prison guard union in California was a powerful lobby for "three strikes, you're out" life sentencing). I hope the plaintiffs prevail in Friedrichs because that’s the right legal outcome, but I also think it would be a small step to correcting some of our injustices and policy distortions.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Here, in Books & Culture, is Alan Jacobs's review of Larry Siedentop's "Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism." Jacobs writes ,
. . . Siedentop, an American political philosopher who taught for many years in England, has here written, if not quite a magnum opus, nevertheless an ambitious and assured narrative that covers many centuries and several European cultures but pursues a single question: Where does the Western world's universally held idea that rights are invested in individuals come from? His answer suggests that those who have looked at the 16th century and the immediately preceding period as the key moment are taking too short a view. He would have us look back to far earlier days, and is willing to overcome his profession's resistance to Big History in order to explain why. . . .
In the recent issue of Touchstone, James Hitchcock warns ("Bargain Debasement") that "secular credibility is a devilish temptation." A bit:
. . . The terms of Satan's bargain have been clear for a long time: Christianity is losing adherents and, even more seriously, losing influence and credibility. It will not prosper once again until it humbly accepts enlightenment from the children of this world. The benefits of this bargain are so obvious that only dogmatic stubbornness prevents its being ratified.
Alas! Some among Jesus' modern disciples have unwittingly sacrificed themselves for the rest by forging ahead to test the bargain, and they have been left with ashes. . . .
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
It's now occurring at the Online Library of Law and Liberty. Professor Richard Epstein has the lead essay. Here is the most recent response by Professor Andrew Koppelman. It was an honor for me to respond to Professor Epstein in this essay. Professor Paul Moreno's will be the final response, and Professor Epstein will respond. Here's a bit from the beginning of mine: