Miriam Ibrahim is a Sudanese woman who was arrested in Sudan and charged with adultery in August 2013 on the grounds that her marriage to a Christian man from South Sudan was void under Sudan's version of Islamic law, which says Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims. The court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014, and she was sentenced to hang after refusing to renounce Christianity. Though her father was Muslim, he left her Ethiopian Orthodox mother to raise her from early childhood, and she was raised a Christian. Though she eventually was released in July 2014 and is now living in the United States, her arrest raises the question of whether and how the United States should respond to instances of the denial of religious freedom in other countries.
Prof. Thomas F. Farr, Senior Fellow and Director, Religious Freedom Project, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University
Tina Ramírez, Founder and Executive Director, Hardwired, Inc.
Since the 1980s, the Department of Justice has utilized civil asset forfeiture as an effective tool to seize and forfeit billions of dollars-worth of assets allegedly connected to criminal activity as either an instrumentality or fruit of the crime. Since the inception of the asset forfeiture program, the Justice Department has shared much of these funds with state and local law enforcement authorities under its equitable sharing program, and many states have their own civil forfeiture laws and procedures. Critics of the program believe that civil asset forfeiture is fundamentally unfair, claiming, among other things, that it has the potential to warp law enforcement priorities, that the existing procedures are stacked against innocent property owners, and that it is simply wrong to seize someone’s property when that person has not been charged with, much less convicted of, a crime. Several proposals have been introduced in Congress to reform the civil asset forfeiture program, the Justice Department has announced that it is conducting an internal review of this program, and a number of states have recently undertaken a review of their own civil asset forfeiture laws.
John G. Malcolm, Director and Ed Gilbertson and Sherry Lindberg Gilbertson Senior Legal Fellow, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, The Heritage Foundation
John W. Vardaman, III, Assistant Deputy Chief for Policy, Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, United States Department of Justice
Lars Hedegaard was prosecuted under the European “incitement to hate” law all the way up to the Danish Supreme Court. Upon a full court re-hearing he was unanimously acquitted of intending his comments for public dissemination. He then survived a terrorist assassination attempt. Mr. Hedegaard will discuss why he has devoted so much to the cause of free speech and his deep belief that robust speech is vital to the survival of Western civilization. He assessed the long-term prospects for reform of speech laws in Europe, post Charlie Hebdo, and commented on what the United States might learn from developments in Europe.
Lars Hedegaard, Founder, International Free Press Society
Interviewer: Karen J. Lugo, Member, Federalism & Separation of Powers Practice Group Executive Committee
In his recent book, Saving Congress from Itself: Emancipating the States and Empowering Their People, former Senator James Buckley eloquently contends that our federal system of government has been systematically undermined by the practice of Congress intruding on matters the Constitution reserves to the States. While Senator Buckley recognizes the inevitability of competition between state and federal politicians to be seen as solving important problems for constituents, he contends that without the federal judiciary keeping federal lawmakers within constitutional bounds, they face strong, likely irresistible, incentives to use federal taxpayer dollars to benefit home states and districts. Senator Buckley laments above all the Supreme Court’s 1937 Spending Clause decision in Steward Machine Company v. Davis. The whole problem with Steward Machine Company, according to Senator Buckley, is its holding that “in its pursuit of the general welfare, Congress is authorized to provide states with funds to implement programs that Congress itself has no power to write into law.”
As the culmination of his analysis, Senator Buckley offers a “modest” proposal: that “Congress immediately terminate all federal programs that offer grants to states and their subdivisions.” Acknowledging that federal grants currently constitute more than 30% of state revenues, and hence Congress cannot cut off the flood of federal money overnight, Senator Buckley specifically proposes that Congress “terminate the grants by converting them into single no-strings-attached block grants --- one for each state” and then subsequently phase out these block grants over a period of years.
Hon. James L. Buckley, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (ret.) and former U.S. Senator
Interviewer: Robert R. Gasaway, Partner, Kirkland & Ellis LLP
In December 2013, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) released a proposal on the “Single Point of Entry” (SPOE) strategy as a means of resolving large failing banks without financial-market disruption. Paul Kupiec and Peter Wallison wrote a paper strongly critiquing the strategy, and presented it to Federalist Society members on a January 22 Teleforum conference call. A recording of their presentation is available here. Randall Guynn, Prof. David Skeel, and James Wigand offered their defense of SPOE and their response to Mr. Kupiec and Mr. Wallison on a Teleforum conference call.
Randall Guynn, Partner, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Prof. David Skeel, S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School