In anticipation of the new academic year, I have a short piece over at Liberty Law on a piece by Justice Scalia that (I think) has received almost no commentary, with the exception of a very good essay by Adam White, on “Teaching About the Law.” Here’s the beginning:
There is not very much written by Justice Antonin Scalia that has gone largely unnoticed. But thanks to Adam White (and this fine article of his), I recently read this obscure 1987 essay by the late Justice: “Teaching About the Law” in the Christian Legal Society Quarterly. As we are just over a month away from the beginning of the law school year, it is a propitious moment to share its ideas.The principal question Scalia addresses is this: what ought a law professor who was so inclined teach law students about the Christian attitude toward the secular law? But the answers Scalia offers are of interest because of what they say to, and how they challenge, both the prevailing progressive and libertarian pedagogical frameworks that respectively structure much of law teaching.
Scalia’s first answer is that Christians have a moral obligation to obey the secular law. Drawing from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Scalia writes that “the first and most important Christian truth to be taught about the law” is that “those knaves and fools whom we voted against, and who succeeded in hoodwinking a majority of the electorate, will enact and promulgate laws and directives which, unless they contravene moral precepts, divine law enjoins us to obey.”
One feature of this answer fairly aligns with the libertarian view of law and politics: for the Christian, good government may be limited government, imperfect government, and perpetually monitored and checked government. But another feature of it is in some tension with the libertarian position: for good government is, in fact, good; so good that it has a moral claim to our obedience.
I’m pleased to announce the annual conference co-sponsored by the Lumen Christi Institute and the Law Professors’ Christian Fellowship this year is titled, “The Vocation of a Christian Law Professor.” The conference speakers are Professor Barbara Armacost of the University of Virginia School of Law and Dean Robert Vischer of the University of St. Thomas School of Law. The conference will occur on Friday, January 2, from 4:00-5:45 pm at the University Club of Washington, D.C., with a reception to follow.
More details can be found here.
Last month, we posted the welcome news that Stanford Law School has founded the nation’s first law school clinic focused on religious liberty. This week, the new clinic’s director, Jim Sonne (left), kindly agrees to answer some questions for us. He discusses, among other things, the clinic’s background, the sort of cases and clients it hopes to attract, the reception the clinic has received at Stanford, and the difference between a “religious liberty” and a “religion” clinic.
CLR Forum: Jim, congratulations on starting the country’s only law school clinic devoted to religious liberty. How did you come up with the idea? And why Stanford?
Thanks Mark! The original idea for the clinic was not mine, but Eric Rassbach’s at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Eric and the Becket Fund work closely with Professor Michael McConnell at Stanford. Eric, Professor McConnell, and the folks at Becket thought it would be a great project to bring here.
Coincidentally, while the Becket group was busy preparing a proposal to Stanford in concert with the Templeton Foundation, then-dean Larry Kramer and dean of clinics Larry Marshall were exploring with the faculty ways to expand and diversify the law Continue reading
This is welcome news. Next semester, Stanford Law School will start the nation’s first law school clinic focused on religious liberty. Here’s the announcement from the Stanford website:
The Religious Liberty Clinic is the newest addition to the Mills Legal Clinic, and is presently the only clinic of its kind in the country. The clinic will offer participating students a dynamic, real-world experience representing a diverse group of clients in disputes arising from a wide range of religious beliefs, practices, and customs in a variety of circumstances. Students will learn in class and apply in practice the laws affecting religious liberty, whether statutory or constitutional, and will be expected to counsel individual or institutional clients and litigate on their behalf with technical excellence, professionalism, and maturity.
During the term, students can expect to handle a discrete accommodation project—e.g., represent a prisoner, student, or employee facing obstacles in the exercise of his or her faith—and likely also participate in a longer-term project involving religion in the public square—e.g., represent a small church, synagogue, or mosque with zoning issues, or a faith-based group seeking access to public facilities. Opportunities to draft amicus briefs may also arise. The clinic will involve administrative, trial, and appellate practice—though time constraints may not permit each student to work in all areas—united under the theme of “religious liberty for all.” Because the clinic is a new and unique venture, students may also help in marketing and outreach efforts to the religious and wider communities.
The clinic will be directed by James Sonne, formerly of Ave Maria Law School.
The fact that a law school of Stanford’s prominence is starting a clinic focusing on religious liberty suggests how important this field is becoming. A few years ago, Stanford hired Michael McConnell, one of America’s foremost law and religion scholars, to direct its Constitutional Law Center. It looks like Stanford is making a serious play to become a leader in law and religion studies in the United States.