Legal Spirits Episode 045: 303 Creative at SCOTUS Next Week

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear argument in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, an important case that pits free speech rights against anti-discrimination laws. A Christian web designer has challenged Colorado’s public accommodations law, arguing that the law will require her to design sites for same-sex weddings and convey messages with which she disagrees. In this episode, Marc and Mark explore several of the issues in the case, from concerns about ripeness and standing to matters of substance: free speech and compelled speech, same-sex marriage, antidiscrimination law, what distinguishes “messages” from “messengers,” and others. Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 044: Traditionalism Rising

In this episode, Mark interviews Marc about his new article, “Traditionalism Rising,” on an important, emerging method of constitutional interpretation embraced by the Supreme Court across the domains of constitutional law, including in law and religion, and especially so in the most recent term. Marc explains some of the basics of the method, which emphasizes the endurance of political and cultural practices over time as presumptive determinants of constitutional meaning. The two discuss some of the reasons to adopt this approach to understanding the Constitution and several objections that might be made to it, considering a few responses. Constitutional law and interpretation is, and has always been, fraught with political controversy, and Marc and Mark think through some of the political valences of traditionalism to conclude the discussion. Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 043: The New Thoreaus

In this episode, Marc interviews Mark about his new article, “The New Thoreaus,” on the rise of the Nones and its impact on free-exercise law. Fifty years ago, in Wisconsin v. Yoder, the Supreme Court famously dismissed the idea that a solitary seeker–the Court gave the 19th Century Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau as an example–could qualify as a “religion” for constitutional purposes. “Religion,” the Court explained, means a communal activity, not a purely personal quest. Mark argues that recent demographic changes in America have made this question an urgent one. Perhaps 66 million Americans today are unaffiliated believers–people who, like Thoreau, reject organized religion and follow their own, idiosyncratic spiritual paths–and more and more of them seek “religious” exemptions, including in the context of recent vaccine mandates. Mark examines some of these cases and argues that Yoder‘s dicta was basically correct: although religion cannot be an exclusively collective activity, the existence of a religious community is a crucial factor in the definition of religion for legal purposes. Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 042: Two Blockbuster Decisions at SCOTUS

The October 2021 term has ended with a bang. In this episode, we discuss the Court’s rulings in two significant church-and-state cases: Carson v. Makin, the Maine school funding case, and Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the case of the football coach who prayed at the 50-yard line. We explain how the Court ruled in these cases, why the cases are so significant (goodbye to Lemon!), and what they leave open for future decisions. Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 041: Learning in War-Time

In this episode of Legal Spirits, Center Co-Directors Mark Movsesian and Marc DeGirolami explore C.S. Lewis’s great essay on the calling of the Christian scholar, “Learning in War-Time.” Lewis wrote the essay at the start of World War II, but it continues to speak to students and faculty today–Christian and non-Christian. As Lewis observes, “human life is always lived on the edge of a precipice,” and the question why people should devote what little time they have on earth to academic pursuits when so many other things call for our attention is a perennial one. Lewis’s message is one of humility, courage, and controlled hope, even in the worst of times. Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 040: Raising the Christian Flag at City Hall

Boston City Hall (Brutalist architecture)

In this episode, Center Co-Directors Marc DeGirolami and Mark Movsesian explore another law and religion case recently argued at the Supreme Court, Shurtleff v. City of Boston, concerning whether a municipality can decline a private group’s request to fly a religious flag on a city hall flagpole pursuant to a policy where it flies flags at the request of other private constituencies. The case involves issues of free speech and religious freedom, as well as raising some questions about broader themes or patterns in the religion cases the Supreme Court seems to be taking–particularly as respects the Establishment Clause. Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 039: Praying on the 50-Yard Line (Again)

In this episode, Center Co-Directors Marc DeGirolami and Mark Movsesian explore the Court’s decision last week to cert grant in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, in which a high school football coach challenges his employer’s decision to discipline him for praying on the field after games. The case, which we discussed in an episode three years ago when the Court denied cert at an earlier stage in the litigation, raises interesting free speech and free exercise issues. Why did the Court take the case now, and what are the arguments on either side? Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 038: Law & Religion in “The Merchant of Venice”

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, one of his “problem plays,” has long fascinated lawyers. Yet the legal arguments in the case are preposterous. In this episode, we discuss how Shakespeare uses an absurd legal dispute to illustrate deeper religious and political conflicts and speculate about the implications of the play for America today. Perhaps the reason Merchant so fascinates lawyers is that it demonstrates uncomfortable truths about the limits of law. Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 037: The NY COVID Vaccine Mandates and Religious Exemptions

In this episode, we tackle a recent set of challenges by religious objectors in New York to government imposed vaccine mandates. We run through some of the background in these cases, examine some of the comments by New York Governor Kathleen Hochul concerning religion and these mandates, and take a look at the relevant law of free exercise and due process. Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 036: Looking Back and Ahead at Law and Religion Cases at the Supreme Court

In this episode, we look at the biggest law and religion case at the Supreme Court last term, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, and the two most significant such cases on the Court’s docket for the new term so far. The first, Carson v. Makin, looks like it could be a major case on the issue of whether the state may distinguish between “status” and “use” in deciding whether to exclude a religious school from its tuition aid programs. The second, Ramirez v. Collier, concerns a RLUIPA challenge to a Texas restriction on what ministers and clergy may do in capital cases in ministering inside the execution chamber. Listen in!