CLR at George Mason Next Month

 

csas-logoNext month, Marc and I will among the speakers at “Religion and the Administrative State,” a conference sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason’s Antonin Scalia Law School. The Center’s Director, Adam White, has put together a very interesting set of panels, including the one on which Marc and I will speak, “The Future of the First Amendment.” The conference, scheduled for September 14, will appeal to anyone with an interest in church-state relations. For details, please check the conference announcement, here.

New Video: The Future of Religious Freedom

The folks at Princeton’s James Madison Program have uploaded the video of my talk there last May on on the future of religious freedom in America. I discuss the rise of the Nones; the growth of the administrative state; our expanding notions of equality; even Tocqueville and pantheism. Oh, I also make some predictions about the then-undecided Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which were not too far off, actually. (That happens now and then). People who are interested can access the video on the Madison Program’s site, or here on our Videos page. Other panelists include John J. DiIulio, Jr. (Penn), Michael Stokes Paulsen (St. Thomas), and Katrina Lantos Swett (Lantos Foundation). Thanks again to the Madison Program for inviting me!

NY Times Op Ed on the Court and the Culture

I have an op ed today in the New York Times co-authored with Kevin Walsh about the Supreme Court, the culture, and what to expect from whoever replaces Justice Anthony Kennedy. A bit:

 [W]ith Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement last week, many of our fellow conservatives are suddenly buoyant. They believe everything is about to change. It is a perennial temptation. If only one or two justices had been different — a Robert Bork rather than an Anthony Kennedy, an “anybody else” rather than a David Souter — then, it is imagined, we would inhabit a different constitutional universe. The problem is simply a matter of personnel. Now at last we will get our chance to fix the country, they think.

Let us not get our hopes too high. Even if Justice Kennedy is replaced with an actual conservative, as we hope and expect, the Supreme Court cannot save a degraded culture, nor can it degrade a virtuous one — not too much in either direction, at least. Conservatives seeking lasting change are better advised to attend to our failures in the broader culture than to prepare the way for our Supreme Court savior. Otherwise, we are likely to be sorely disappointed.

Why? Because law, like politics, generally conforms to the culture. The Supreme Court is shaped by the culture that surrounds it; its instinct is to follow, not to lead. Consider the sexual autonomy cases of the 1960s and ’70s, or the cases involving civic displays of religion in the 1980s and ’90s, or the gay rights cases of this century. In each instance, the court channeled the views of a preferred emerging cultural constituency — about the sexual revolution, about secularization, about same-sex relationships — in recognizing the corresponding rights. The Psalmist was right to warn against trust in princes….

To be sure, law is important. It forms the culture around us, just as much as it is informed by it. Indeed, the Supreme Court has made itself a powerful symbol of an American yearning to resolve profound cultural conflict once and for all. It has come to exercise a potent didactic function over the past several decades. It instructs us, scolds us and exhorts us to follow it. It has become a relentless smasher and refashioner of rights.

As some feverishly speculate about which 5-to-4 decisions of the recent past will soon vanish, we counsel patience. Conservatives have rightly criticized the judicial manufacture of rights; let us not make the mirror-image mistake of urging immediate doctrinal demolition. The legal landscape may change for the better through erosion and accretion, rather than avulsion and ill-considered construction.

Chief Justice John Marshall once wrote that “a constitution is framed for ages to come, and is designed to approach immortality as nearly as human institutions can approach it.” But today, new constitutional law is born and killed off in waves in response to the felt imperatives of cultural change. This is the Supreme Court we have now, borne of the culture we have now. No bright, shiny, new justice can change it alone.

DeGirolami at Princeton in Spring 2019

Just a quick piece of happy Center news. I’ll be a visiting fellow at the James Madison Program in Princeton University’s Department of Politics next spring. Mark has enjoyed a very fruitful period there this spring, and I’m looking forward to learning from all of the wonderful folks who run and will participate in the program, as well as taking advantage of all that Princeton has to offer. I’ll be working on a book project (with my sometime co-author, Kevin Walsh) investigating the church-state worldview of George Washington, Patrick Henry, and John Marshall, and what happened to it over time, and why it did so.

Movsesian at Princeton This Weekend

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Just an FYI that I’ll be appearing at Princeton this weekend at the annual Madison Program conference, the theme of which this year is, “Taking the Measure of Where We Are Today.” I’ll be speaking on the panel, “Religious Freedom at Home and Abroad,” on Friday afternoon at 1:30, along with John DiIulio, Jr., Michael Stokes Paulsen, and Katrina Lantos Swett. Readers of the blog, stop by and say hello!

Congratulations to Board Members Vyskocil & Sullivan

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L-R: Center Director Mark Movsesian, Mary Kay Vyskocil ’83, Richard Sullivan

 

We received the great news today that Board member Mary Kay Vyskocil ’83 has been nominated to serve on the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Mary Kay, who is currently a federal bankruptcy judge, joins another Board member on the nominations list–Judge Richard Sullivan, currently on the SDNY, who earlier this year was nominated for spot on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. We’re delighted, and proud, of both of them, and wish them the best for the confirmation process!

 

CLR at Princeton, First Things

The semester’s winding down, but both Marc and I have been busy this week. This afternoon, I’ll be commenting on Brian Hutler’s paper, “Conscientious Objection or Political Protest, But Not Both,” at a conference on law and complicity at Princeton’s University Center for Human Values. I’m grateful to the conference organizer, Amy Sepinwall, for inviting me. L&R Forum readers, stop by and say hello! And yesterday, Marc and I participated in a worthwhile Dulles Memorial colloquium at First Things Magazine. The subject of the colloquium was Rick Garnett’s new paper on establishments. It was a great opportunity to think again about the compatibility of liberalism and state religions, and to catch up with old friends and make new ones. Thanks to Rusty Reno and the First Things team for inviting us!

Thanks to the Madison Program

Just a note to thank Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions for hosting a faculty workshop yesterday on my current draft, “The Future of Religious Freedom.” I gained a lot from the discussion. Looking forward to dinner with the undergraduate fellows this evening!

Movsesian at Columbia Law

I’m a little late posting this, but I’d like to thank Professor Philip Hamburger and the Morningside Institute’s Nathaniel Peters for inviting me to participate earlier this month in a session of Columbia Law School’s Reading Group in the American Constitutional Tradition. The Reading Group is a for-credit seminar for 2Ls, 3Ls, and LLM students at Columbia Law. For the session in which I participated, the students read excerpts from Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Among the issues we discussed in class were Tocqueville’s famous observation that lawyers form a sort of conservative aristocracy in America, a class of quasi-mystics with the ability to speak oracularly in the name of tradition. We still try around here. #TraditionProject

Movsesian at Princeton

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Movsesian (left) with Madison Program Executive Director Brad Wilson

 

St. John’s has posted a news item on my visiting fellowship at Princeton University’s James Madison Program this semester:

Professor Movsesian, who is the director of the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s Law, is devoting his time at Princeton to his current writing project, “The Future of Religious Freedom.” The project explores the cultural and political trends that make religious freedom increasingly problematic in American life, and shows how those trends are likely to affect constitutional law.

He presented an early version of the project, a paper on religion and the administrative state, at a conference at George Mason University Law School in March, and will present a revised version at a workshop at Princeton this month. Professor Movsesian will also participate in a panel, “Religious Freedom at Home and Abroad,” at the Madison Program’s annual conference in May.

“It’s a wonderful experience,” Professor Movsesian says of his fellowship. “I greatly appreciate the opportunity to spend time at Princeton and interact with so many serious scholars. I know my work will improve as a result.” Madison Program Executive Director Bradford Wilson adds, “Professor Movsesian brings to Princeton University his exceptional knowledge of the place of religious freedom in American constitutional and statutory law. His inquisitive and generous spirit has enlivened the never-ending dialogue in our Program on law and politics. We are honored to have him with us.”

I know we have some readers on the Princeton campus, so please stop by and say hello! I’m here through June.

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