Do Skeptics Make Better Lawyers?

This will be my last post as a guest blogger.  Many thanks to Mark and Marc for allowing me this opportunity to share some thoughts and to the many readers who contributed comments, e-mailed me offline, or just read.  I’m now back to my day job saving monopolists not from their sins but from treble damage judgments.

Since I haven’t been able to stir up any controversy by asking how Jesus would rule on same-sex marriage or why evangelicals are underrepresented at elite law schools, I thought I might go out with a bang by asking whether skeptics—atheists, agnostics, and others skeptical about religious devotion and belief—generally make better lawyers than do people of faith.  And, in case the reader assumes that any post on a law and religion blog must necessary answer this question with a self-righteous snort, please be assured that I mean it quite seriously.

The question has lingered uncomfortably in my mind for a long time.  Back in June of 2005, when I was an untenured faculty member at Cardozo Law School (which is part of Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish institution), my then dean, David Rudenstine, gave a provocative address to group of 200 undergraduate counselors from northeastern universities in which he seemingly questioned whether people of faith could make good law students or lawyers.   David argued:  “Faith challenges the underpinnings of legal education . . . . Faith is a willingness to accept belief in things for which we have no evidence, or which runs counter to evidence we have.  Faith does not tolerate opposing views, does not acknowledge inconvenient facts. Law schools stand in fundamental opposition to this.”

That story is old and was widely discussed at the time, and I don’t mean to use this as an occasion to pick on David Rudenstine, whom I have always known to be fair-minded, ethical, and generous.  It’s just that I’ve often wondered whether David had at least half a point.

In an earlier post. I mentioned an online survey of students at an elite law school that suggested that evangelical Protestants might be underrepresented compared to their national demographic figures.  The same survey (and please see all caveats from last time about its informality) suggested that atheists and agnostics might be very significantly overrepresented compared to their national demographic figures.  According to Pew Forum data, people who identify as atheist or agnostic account for about 4% of all Read more

Muñoz, “Religious Liberty and the American Constitution: The Essential Cases and Documents”

In July, Rowman & Littlefield  will publish Religious Liberty and the American Constitution: The Essential Cases and Documents by Vincent Phillip Muñoz (U. of Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows.

Throughout American history, legal battles concerning the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty have been among the most contentious issue of the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.  Religious Liberty and the American Constitution: The Essential Cases and Documents represents the most authoritative and up-to-date overview of the landmark cases that have defined religious freedom in America.  Noted religious liberty expert Vincent Philip Muñoz (Notre Dame) provides carefully edited excerpts from over fifty of the most important Supreme Court religious liberty cases.  In addition, Muñoz’s substantive introduction offers an overview on the constitutional history of religious liberty in America.  Introductory headnotes to each case provides the constitutional and historical context.  Religious Liberty and the American Constitution will be an indispensable resource for anyone interested matters of religious freedom from the Republics earliest days to current debates.

Cesari, “Why the West Fears Islam: An Exploration of Muslims in Liberal Democracies”

9781403969538In July, Palgrave Macmillan  will publish Why the West Fears Islam: An Exploration of Muslims in Liberal Democracies by Jocelyne Cesari (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows.

Are Muslims threatening the core values of the West? Jocelyne Cesari responds to this question by providing first-hand testimonies of Muslims in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States. Her book is an unprecedented exploration of Muslims’ religious and political life based on several years of field work in Europe and in the United States.Through a methodic investigation, she explains that Burqa, hijab, and minarets are threatening because Islam has become the external and internal Enemy of the West, especially since 9/11. Her book explains how Islam in the West has been connected to the War on Terror, how the presence of Islam in secular spaces has triggered a western politics of fear, exacerbated by the prominence of some intolerant Islamic interpretations of women, sexual minorities and non believers. The book’s unique, interdisciplinary scope allows for an in-depth analysis of data polls, surveys, political discourses, policy programs, interviews, and focus groups with Muslims. Ultimately, this book provides unique insights into the reality of Muslims in Europe and in the USA and unveils how western liberalism and secularism have been deeply transformed since 9/11.

The Top Five New Law & Religion Papers on SSRN

From SSRN’s list of most frequently downloaded law and religion papers posted in the last 60 days, here are the current top five. Since last week, Wenger has remained #1, Balkin has risen to #2, Laycock and Berg have risen to #3, Gaylord has risen to #4, and Rienzi has been replaced by Willis:

1. ‘The Divine Institution of Marriage’: An Overview of LDS Involvement in the Proposition 8 Campaign by Kaimipono David Wenger (Thomas Jefferson School of Law) [514 downloads]

2. Must We Be Faithful to Original Meaning?  by Jack M. Balkin (Yale  U. – Law School) [219 downloads]

3. Protecting Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty by Douglas Laycock (U. of Virginia School of Law) and Thomas C. Berg (U. of St. Thomas School of Law) [183 downloads]

4. For-Profit Corporations, Free Exercise, and the HHS Mandate  by Scott Gaylord (Elon U. School of Law) [159 downloads]

5. Taxes and Religion: The Hobby Lobby Contraceptive Cases  by Steven J. Willis (U. of Florida) [127 downloads]