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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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
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.
Today and tomorrow, Mark and I are at the Scalia Law School at George Mason University, hosted by the Center for the Study of the Administrative State under the capable directorship of Adam White.
We will be presenting and discussing our respective new draft papers (more soon about this work) as part of the Center’s research roundtable on “Religion and the Administrative State.”
Mark and I are pleased and honored to announce the fourth biennial (how many years is that?) Colloquium in Law and Religion, to be hosted in fall 2018. This seminar invites leading law and religion scholars to share their work before a small audience of students and faculty. Here is the slate of speakers:
September 17: Professor Robert Louis Wilken (University of Virginia, Emeritus)
October 1: Professor Philip Hamburger (Columbia Law School)
October 15: Professor John Inazu (Washington U. St. Louis School of Law)
October 29: Professor Micah Schwartzman (University of Virginia School of Law)
November 12: The Honorable Diane S. Sykes (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit)
November 26: Professor Vincent Phillip Muñoz (University of Notre Dame)
To read more about past colloquia, please see these links:
I have a review of Patrick Deneen’s book, Why Liberalism Failed, at the Liberty Fund blog. A bit:
[L]aw is liberalism’s most potent instrument. Law plays a legitimating role in many political regimes, but it performs unique work in Deneen’s account of the liberal state.
Legal liberalism is the device that replaces non-liberal social structures and institutions—the very structures and institutions that once sustained it—and establishes itself as the exclusive fount of authority. Legal liberalism substitutes informal relationships derived from non-liberal institutions with administrative directives and centralized controls, whether of the surveillance state, the Title IX bureaucrat, or the carceral network. Legal liberalism elevates the Constitution to the status of sacral cultural object, in the process consecrating the legal state: new citizens and officeholders swear an oath not to the nation, but to the Constitution and the law. Legal liberalism trumpets the ceaseless progression of individual freedoms and rights, even as its laws generate and consolidate greater power, wealth, and control in the state. Legal liberalism’s contemporary master right, as announced by its oracles—to “define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”—requires a correspondingly enormous and engulfing positive law and regulatory armamentarium. Legal liberalism is predisposed toward cosmopolitanism, globalism, and internationalism, and against local custom, culture, and tradition. And it seems to me that Deneen would take legal liberalism’s educational hubs—the elite American law schools—as archetypes of the sorts of pathologies afflicting institutions of higher learning.
Indeed, one might well suppose that the partisans of legal liberalism would be the least receptive to what Deneen has to say, devoted as they are to maintaining and enlarging the power structures and ideological commitments of the liberal status quo. Lawyers and legal academics will be particularly prone to dismiss Deneen. The legal elite is adept at inventing stratagems of self-validation. It is quick to enforce internal codes of civility, conformity, right thinking, and right speaking that mark membership in the club. It drives itself to distraction in the latest Supreme Court intrigues, investing its preferred justices with a superhuman heroism and a cult of personality (while demonizing the others). It jealously guards its own birthright. It will not like this book.
Yet even those within the legal liberal establishment who are inclined to hear him out might doubt that Deneen has shown that legal liberalism has “failed,” or that its weaknesses are so pervasive as to suggest imminent regime collapse. In the first place, legal liberalism, and the society that it has supported and been supported by, have generated vast economic wealth. To be sure, the allocation of that wealth has been, to put it gently, uneven. But its resources are nevertheless formidable. Second, legal liberalism has made several great social and political advances possible. It has helped to ameliorate, if not correct, certain profound injustices affecting various marginalized groups and it has expanded social and economic opportunity. These are genuine contributions. Deneen rapidly acknowledges this point early on, but the balance of the book does not demonstrate that the political and legal framework of liberalism either is an abject failure or has reached the point of breakdown.
What Deneen has shown, and to great effect, are a series of dynamics internal to the claims, logic, and aspirations of liberalism that produce extremely serious problems. Yet of all the variations of liberalism discussed in the book, legal liberalism is perhaps least likely to adapt to overcome these difficulties because of its deep investments in maintaining its own position. Deneen might welcome this resistance as the beginning of the end, since it would confirm a piece of the book’s thesis. But if the end is coming, legal liberalism’s tail is likely to be a long one.