1111 Third Avenue
30th Floor Conference Center
Seattle, WA 98101
- Hans von Spakovsky, The Heritage Foundation
The laws of six states prohibit businesses—but not unions or other groups—from contributing to political parties, committees, or candidates. On February 24, 2015, the Goldwater Institute filed suit on behalf of two family-owned Massachusetts businesses to challenge Massachusetts’ political contribution ban. Since 1908, businesses have faced a total contribution ban, but special rules implemented in 1988 allow unions to contribute as much as $15,000 before any disclosure requirements or other contribution limits apply to the union. After unions have donated $15,000 to campaigns, their PACs can continue to contribute up to the ordinary limits. Meanwhile, business-funded PACs are banned from contributing. Does the Massachusetts law violate state and federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection, free speech, and free association?
On March 2, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The first question in the case is whether Arizona’s reliance on a commission to draw up congressional districts rather than its state legislature violates the Elections Clause of the United States Constitution as well as Title 2 of the U.S. Code. The second question is whether the Arizona Legislature has standing to file suit against the commission.
To discuss the case, we have Derek Muller, who is an Associate Professor of Law at the Pepperdine University School of Law.
Two American Muslim professors have been targeted by ISIS for criticizing the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has redoubled efforts to criminalize expressions of “Islamophobia” in Western nations. The most recent Intelligence Squared debate revealed heightened concern about restrictive speech codes on American campuses (e.g., the blacklisting of distinguished speakers who are labeled controversial by some people). What speech is, and what speech should be, protected in these and other contexts?
Familiar accounts of religious freedom in the United States often tell a story of visionary founders who broke from the centuries-old patterns of Christendom to establish a political arrangement committed to secular and religiously neutral government. These novel commitments were supposedly embodied in the religion clauses of the First Amendment. But this story is largely a fairytale, University of San Diego School of Law Prof. Steven D. Smith says in this incisive examination of a much-mythologized subject. He makes the case that the American achievement was not a rejection of Christian commitments but a retrieval of classic Christian ideals of freedom of the church and freedom of conscience.
In The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom, Prof. Smith maintains that the distinctive American contribution to religious freedom was not in the First Amendment, which was intended merely to preserve the political status quo in matters of religion. What was important was the commitment to open contestation between secularist and providentialist understandings of the nation which evolved over the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, far from vindicating constitutional principles, as conventional wisdom suggests, the Supreme Court imposed secular neutrality, which effectively repudiated this commitment to open contestation. Rather than upholding what was distinctively American and constitutional, these decisions subverted it. The negative consequences are visible today in the incoherence of religion clause jurisprudence and the intense culture wars in American politics. Prof. Smith was joined by Prof. John Inazu of Washington University (Saint Louis) Law School to discuss the premises, analysis, and conclusions of Prof. Smith’s book.