Legal Spirits Episode 030: Supreme Court Blocks NY’s Covid Restrictions on Churches

By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court recently granted a preliminary injunction against New York’s restrictions on church gatherings during the continuing Covid epidemic. In this episode, we discuss the case, Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, and explore its implications for similar cases pending at the Court. We also ask why these cases have provoked such a reaction in the wider public (hint: it’s politics and the culture wars). Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 029: “What It Means to Be Human”–a Discussion with Professor Carter Snead

What is the anthropology–the account of human nature and human flourishing–that grounds the American law of bioethics? Is it an appealing one, or are there problems with it? In our latest podcast with Professor O. Carter Snead of the University of Notre Dame Law School, we probe these and related questions in his recently released book, What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics (Harvard University Press). Professor Snead discussed several chapters with us and our students in our Colloquium in Law and Religion. Listen in as we range over some of the deep questions covered by this important new book!

Legal Spirits Episode 028: Oral Argument in Fulton v. Philadelphia

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, involving a dispute between Catholic Social Services of Philadelphia, a foster-care placement agency, and the City of Philadelphia with respect to the former’s request for a religious accommodation from a local nondiscrimination provision in carrying out foster care placement. In this podcast, Mark and I discuss the major themes that emerged in the argument and offer a few predictions about the result and reasoning the Court might adopt. Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 027: Contemporary America and Late Imperial Rome

What are the primary sources of American notions of toleration: the Enlightenment or early Christianity? And why do so many see cultural parallels between America today and late imperial Rome? In our latest podcast, we chat with Professor Jed Atkins, a professor of classics at Duke University about these and other questions related to the nature and value of religious toleration, including its relationship to the virtue of justice. Professor Atkins’s presented a paper on Tertullian (as well as Augustine, St. Paul, and others) for our Colloquium in Law and Religion. Listen in as we broaden the lens to discuss these more general themes of cultural and legal significance today.

Legal Spirits 026: Law in “A Man for All Seasons”

In this episode, recorded especially for our 1Ls at St. John’s (and law students everywhere!), we explore legal themes in the classic film about Thomas More, “A Man for All Seasons” (1966). How far can law protect an individual from state and social coercion? And to what extent must a lawyer submerge his or her own views in representing a client? Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 025: Supreme Court Law and Religion Roundup

In this podcast, we discuss the end of the Supreme Court’s term, which included a number of important cases related to law and religion–Bostock, Espinoza, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Little Sisters of the Poor. We take a big picture, thematic approach to these cases, talk about who won and who lost, and speculate about what these and future cases mean for the ongoing conflicts between what we call “Progressives” and the “Traditionally Religious.” Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 024: Church Closings in the Time of Coronavirus–Part II

Photo: Buffalo News

In this followup to Episode 22, we discuss new developments in litigation over government orders to close churches during the COVID-19 epidemic, including a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. We ask whether local authorities continue to merit judicial deference and whether courts should decide what sort of worship services should satisfy believers. Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 023: Journalist Kelsey Dallas on Religion in America Today

Kelsey Dallas, the national religion reporter for the Deseret News, is one of the best religion journalists writing today: thorough, fair, and insightful. In this episode, she joins us to explains why, after getting a graduate degree in religion from Yale, she left academics to become a reporter, and why she finds American religion so fascinating. Along the way, we discuss how the COVID-19 epidemic is affecting churches, what stories she’s watching for future articles, and the never-ending Contraceptive Mandate litigation. Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 022: Church Closings in the Time of Coronavirus

In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, many state and local governments have banned “non-essential” gatherings of more than 10 people, including religious services. In this episode of Legal Spirits, Center Co-Directors Marc DeGirolami and Mark Movsesian discuss several recent cases, like one involving the On Fire Christian Church in Louisville Kentucky, in which (mostly Evangelical) churches have challenged these bans as violations of religious freedom. How likely are such challenges to succeed? And why are Evangelicals, as opposed to Catholics and Orthodox, the Christians challenging these bans? Listen in!

Legal Spirits Episode 021: The New Little Sisters of the Poor Case (featuring Prof. Kevin Walsh)

The Little Sisters of the Poor are litigants before the Supreme Court once more, this time as intervening defendants in an action by Pennsylvania and New Jersey against the federal government. The factual issue is a set of regulations adopted by the federal government that fully exempt organizations like the Little Sisters from the “contraception mandate”–an extremely controversial feature of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act that has been litigated for what will shortly be a decade. The case is Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, and it implicates complicated questions about religious freedom.

In this podcast, we are absolutely delighted to be joined by our first guest on Legal Spirits, Professor Kevin Walsh of the University of Richmond Law School, who has represented the Little Sisters before and has a keen understanding of the many intricacies of this important case. We recapitulate the history of this case, discuss the decisions below, and talk about the claims before the Supreme Court. We focus on the question of standing and the broader issue of the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and how this case might affect it. Listen in!