Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Monday, July 2, 2018

A Pro-Life Ripple in a Sea of Pro-Choice Academic Commentary

With the retirement of Justice Kennedy from the Supreme Court, law professors have been speculating how constitutional law may change with a new member of the Court. At the forefront of concern for many is the continued viability of Roe v. Wade, the decision that announced a nearly-absolute right to abortion of a pregnancy.

Specplate_iapc-large
Given the ideological and political homogeneity of law professors generally and of constitutional law professors in particular, online discussions not surprisingly have been dominated by those who bemoan this possibility. Professorial posts typically frame the question in stark terms between, on the one hand, support for women's rights and gender equality, and on the other side, disrespect for women or even the design to undermine the progress of women toward professional and cultural equality. Indeed, on a general “listserv” of constitutional law professors, posts tend to assume that everyone is on the same page, to the point of outlining the strategy for preserving abortion rights by legal and political action and cheering the various advocates and organizations that champion “reproductive rights.” That anyone in the legal academy might disagree or that another value – such as protection of unborn life – might play a role in the debate appears not to have occurred to many or at least is seldom acknowledged.

While I have become mostly a reader and not poster on internet discussions in recent years, I was unable to resist this time, given the blessings of life that have washed over me recently, as explained below. And so into the "conlaw" professors’ discussion, I interjected this message last week:

Friends, just as a reminder, lest this become a pro-choice echo chamber as we see too often on abortion in the legal academy, tens of millions of Americans regard protecting the life of the unborn to be the most important civil rights movement of our time.  One could as readily list many local pro-life organizations, simultaneously compassionate and passionate, who are dedicated to helping pregnant women avoid the Faustian bargain of abortion.  I have had the opportunity to observe and provide support to families involved with these organizations, who have sacrificed greatly to bring into their homes new-borns of all races, backgrounds, and disability status.

More than half-a-century ago, my 15-year-old birth mother placed me for adoption after she had broken up with her high school classmate who was my birth father.  That loving choice was the spark of multiple blessings to my adoptive family, including my parents who could not have children of their own and obviously to me in the opportunities I have had.  Within just the past two weeks, I’ve learned the identity of my birth mother (from her participation in one of the DNA companies).  That in turn has opened doors for me now to learn of five more sisters and two more brothers, as well as more than a dozen nieces and nephews.  In the past two weeks, the joyful exchanges by phone, on email, and through Facebook have been overwhelming, moving me to tears nearly daily.  I know I will be blessed by building relationships now with my larger family, unknown to me for nearly all my life.

Continue reading

July 2, 2018 in Sisk, Greg | Permalink

NY Times Op Ed with Walsh on the Court, the Culture, and the Justice to Come

Kevin Walsh and I have an op ed today in the New York Times about the Supreme Court, the culture, and what to hope for from whoever replaces Justice Anthony Kennedy. A bit:

 [W]ith Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement last week, many of our fellow conservatives are suddenly buoyant. They believe everything is about to change. It is a perennial temptation. If only one or two justices had been different — a Robert Bork rather than an Anthony Kennedy, an “anybody else” rather than a David Souter — then, it is imagined, we would inhabit a different constitutional universe. The problem is simply a matter of personnel. Now at last we will get our chance to fix the country, they think.

Let us not get our hopes too high. Even if Justice Kennedy is replaced with an actual conservative, as we hope and expect, the Supreme Court cannot save a degraded culture, nor can it degrade a virtuous one — not too much in either direction, at least. Conservatives seeking lasting change are better advised to attend to our failures in the broader culture than to prepare the way for our Supreme Court savior. Otherwise, we are likely to be sorely disappointed.

Why? Because law, like politics, generally conforms to the culture. The Supreme Court is shaped by the culture that surrounds it; its instinct is to follow, not to lead. Consider the sexual autonomy cases of the 1960s and ’70s, or the cases involving civic displays of religion in the 1980s and ’90s, or the gay rights cases of this century. In each instance, the court channeled the views of a preferred emerging cultural constituency — about the sexual revolution, about secularization, about same-sex relationships — in recognizing the corresponding rights. The Psalmist was right to warn against trust in princes…

To be sure, law is important. It forms the culture around us, just as much as it is informed by it. Indeed, the Supreme Court has made itself a powerful symbol of an American yearning to resolve profound cultural conflict once and for all. It has come to exercise a potent didactic function over the past several decades. It instructs us, scolds us and exhorts us to follow it. It has become a relentless smasher and refashioner of rights.

As some feverishly speculate about which 5-to-4 decisions of the recent past will soon vanish, we counsel patience. Conservatives have rightly criticized the judicial manufacture of rights; let us not make the mirror-image mistake of urging immediate doctrinal demolition. The legal landscape may change for the better through erosion and accretion, rather than avulsion and ill-considered construction.

Chief Justice John Marshall once wrote that “a constitution is framed for ages to come, and is designed to approach immortality as nearly as human institutions can approach it.” But today, new constitutional law is born and killed off in waves in response to the felt imperatives of cultural change. This is the Supreme Court we have now, borne of the culture we have now. No bright, shiny, new justice can change it alone.

July 2, 2018 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Clarifying Questions about Janus and Catholic Social Teaching on Unions

The holding in Janus v. AFSCME last week that compulsory public sector agency fees are unconstitutional ushered in some commentary about the relationship between Janus and the long tradition in Catholic social thought of supporting unionization. The USCCB filed an amicus brief in the case supporting the union side, Bishop Frank Dewane (Bishop of Venice, Florida and Chairman of the USCCB Committe on Domestic Justice and Human Development) issued a statement expressing disappointment with the decision in Janus, and Michael Sean Winters has a piece here condemning the decision. On the other side, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois tweeted a message of approval for the outcome in Janus, which resulted in a series of replies with a tone and vehemence that are typical of Catholic Twitter.

I’ve already staked out my position (as has Rick Garnett here at MOJ), but here are a couple of clarifying questions about the issues in Janus as they pertain to Catholic social teaching that—I hope—might be the start of a better conversation than “unions—hooray!” or “unions—boo!”.

1. Do public sector unions pose distinctive issues from the concerns that ground the Catholic social tradition’s support for unions?

One of the consistent themes in the arguments for the outcome in Janus is that agency shop arrangements in the public sector are meaningfully different than such arrangements in the private sector. The “management” on the other side of the bargaining table in public employment is the state whose leaders are the subject of lobbying and political support from…the public employee union. Rerum Novarum and the ensuing line of Catholic teaching on unionization were primarily addressed to the urgent necessity of unions for trade workers in the private sector. In light of the rise of wage labor amid industrialization, Leo XIII focused on the problem of commutative justice and how the formation of workers’ associations would be ordered to the common good.

That does not entail, of course, that Catholic social teaching is irrelevant to public sector unions—but the more fruitful conversation, I think, would be somewhere in between the view that CST on unions applies simply and conterminously between public and private sector unions and the view that CST has nothing to do at all with public employee unions. Do the principles of CST supporting the rights of workers to organize apply with full or modified force in the public sector union context? There is a long scholarly literature about public sector bargaining that highlights the inelastic demand for services and bargaining power of public employee unions, with important policy and economic consequences. To my knowledge, Catholic social teaching has not engaged with that literature.

2. How should we understand the relation between the Catholic social tradition on rights of association and First Amendment freedom of speech?

As presented in litigation, Janus is foremost a case about the scope of First Amendment rights and not about whether unions are a good thing or a bad thing. Specifically, the case was about the claim by plaintiffs such as Mark Janus that the payment of an agency fee amounted to compulsory subsidization of political activity (and more precisely, that Abood’s distinction between chargeable expenses for collective bargaining activities and expenses for political activities was not sustainable, see pp. 28-31 of the slip opinion). Pace Eugene Volokh and Will Baude’s interesting and thoughtful brief, both the majority opinion by Justice Alito and the dissent by Justice Kagan assumed agency fees pose some plausible First Amendment burden on employees such as Janus. Their disagreement was over whether that burden runs headlong into a “no compelled speech” principle (Alito) or whether that burden is justified by a deferential, lower level of scrutiny derived from the government employee speech line of cases coming out of Pickering v. Board of Education (Kagan).

It seems to me that Catholic social teaching underdetermines the answer to this First Amendment problem, in large part because CST on rights of workers' associations begins with a thick understanding of the common good and civil society (which is served by maintenance of a living wage for laborers to support the family) and gets around belatedly to rights of freedom of expression. Catholic social thought has not developed much by way of an account of why and when freedom of speech should be legally protected, and Millian liberal or “marketplace of ideas” accounts presumably sit uneasily with the Catholic understanding of law and politics. Apart from a passing mention of freedom of speech in Pacem in Terris or perhaps by derivation from religious freedom in Dignitatis Humanae, there just isn’t much in the tradition (and the concerns about “indifferentism” in, say Pope Gregory XVI’s Mirari Vos did not lend themselves to a robust doctrine of freedom of speech, to put it mildly). Even John Courtney Murray—usually associated with an irenic assimilation of Catholic political thought and American constitutional law—struggles in this little known essay to square the Catholic commitment to the "moral basis of government" and "ordered liberty" with the then-nascent U.S. Supreme Court caselaw on free speech. All of which is—again—not to say that Catholic social teaching doesn’t speak to the question at all (and perhaps says all the worse for the individualism of American constitutional rights discourse), but only that CST does not resolve the constitutional question in a straightforward way.

July 2, 2018 in Moreland, Michael | Permalink

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Some thoughts on Justice Kennedy and his retirement

Alexander Hamilton predicted that the Supreme Court would be the weakest of the national government's three branches. Many would say that things have not turned out that way and would hold up Justice Kennedy's three decades on the Court as an example.

Justice Kennedy was Pres. Reagan's third nominee to replace Justice Lewis Powell, and the fact that Powell's replacement was Kennedy, rather than Robert Bork, would prove to be hugely consequential.
 
Over the years, Justice Kennedy appeared to "swing" or "switch" back and forth between the Court's more liberal and more conservative blocs, but he held, in fact, a fairly consistent judicial philosophy that prioritized free-speech rights and personal autonomy. Perhaps more than any other justice during his tenure, he believed it was the Court's role and obligation to supervise and second-guess political decisions and resolve social and cultural controversies. His conception of a broad and dramatic judicial role was most famously illustrated in his abortion and gay-rights decisions. In the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, he joined an opinion that not only asserted the Court's role as final arbiter but also called on citizens to end their disagreements about abortion policy. Obviously, this call has not been heeded, and Kennedy's critics will say it was presumptuous to issue it.
 
Other areas where Justice Kennedy's vote made significant differences include the debate over federalism and the national government's powers, religious liberty, church-state relations, affirmative action and voting, school choice, and limits on capital punishment. Both political "conservatives" and "liberals" can find much they welcome, and much they reject, in his 31-year record on the Court.
 
It seems likely, judging from the current administration's nominees so far, that Justice Kennedy's retirement and replacement change the Court's balance and case-law in some -- but by no means all -- areas. After all, the vast majority of the Court's rulings are not 5-4, ideologically divided cases. Instead, in most cases and for most of the year, the Court works on technical questions of statutory interpretation and operates by substantial consensus. It is, all things considered, unfortunate that the Court and its composition have come to matter so much with respect to disputed and divisive policy and moral questions that our Constitution is best understood as leaving to the political process. It would be a welcome result of the upcoming confirmation battle if both political parties in Congress take it as an occasion to recommit themselves to Hamilton's vision.      

July 1, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Piece on Travel-Ban Decision

I've posted a piece at America critiquing the travel-ban decision. A bit:

       [T]here was room in [the immigration] precedents for the court to write a narrow opinion focusing on Mr. Trump’s uniquely blatant and irresponsible statements that suggested his intent as the sole decision-maker. True, such a ruling would have to have been narrow, to keep from setting a precedent for serious intrusions on executive authority in future cases.

       But the risks from such an opinion would have been worth taking. The president’s statements were virtually unprecedented in modern times in explicitly labeling all members of a religion a danger to the nation....

       And the consequences of the statements extend [beyond those directly connected to immigrant applicants], poisoning the culture in the country for Muslims already here. Reports of anti-Muslim vandalism and other crimes have spiked in the wake of Mr. Trump’s statements.

       The consequences are also harmful for religious freedom as a general principle. Republican support of Mr. Trump’s hostility to Muslims from the beginning (one March 2016 poll showed that 71 percent of Republican voters backed a temporary “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States) has helped accelerate the perception that religious freedom is nothing more than a tool for each side to use or discard according to what supports its preferred policy positions. Progressives are selective, too, in denigrating the religious freedom of social conservatives. To preserve religious freedom as a principle, not a tool, we must enforce it for all.

Among the sources of comfort:

       [G]iven the court majority’s clear emphasis on the immigration context, we can have reasonable confidence that courts will still act decisively to forbid official animus against Muslims in domestic matters: hostile local resistance to mosquesofficials’ attacks on copies of the Quran and so forth. The travel ban decision specifically endorses, and must not be read to undermine, that bedrock principle.

June 28, 2018 in Berg, Thomas, Current Affairs | Permalink

Janus, Abood, and the End of the Free Speech Disco Era

Although much of the commentary about yesterday’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME couldn’t resist jumping right to politically partisan conservative/liberal descriptions of the case, it seems to me lawyers and law profs should spend a little time on the free speech doctrinal aspects of Janus. So here’s one rough take: Janus is a great vehicle for understanding the differences between formalism and functionalism (along the lines, say, of this piece by Bill Eskridge) in First Amendment law, or, stated otherwise, Justice Alito’s opinion overruling Abood v. Detroit Board of Education marks the ongoing demise of the disco era in free speech jurisprudence.

Reading the characterizations of Abood in the majority opinion by Justice Alito and the dissent by Justice Kagan, I was struck by how much Abood was a creature of the 1970s Supreme Court. There’s scarcely a doctrinal test or free speech category to be found in Justice Stewart’s opinion, but there is a lot of gesturing toward fairness (“free rider” problems), legislative judgments in the labor area, policy considerations (the concern with “labor peace”), and splitting the difference (in Abood, by separating out agency fees for chargeable collective bargaining expenses and fees that go to political activities). In those respects, Abood is broadly of a piece with other free speech cases from the era such as Buckley v. Valeo, Wooley v. Maynard, Virginia State Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, and the series of obscenity cases coming out of Miller v. California.

Following Eskridge’s description of functionalism, these cases employed standards rather than rules, favored multi-factor balancing tests (when a test is formulated at all), often discussed various policy “interests” that were in play as part of a process of induction from those interests to a holding, and sometimes invoked ad hoc principles that resisted wider application (such as the “secondary effects” doctrine of Renton v. Playtime Theatres, which is at the outer edge of the era in 1986). Even the case that has come to be seen as the beginning of the distinction between content-based and content-neutral regulation of speech, Chicago v. Mosley from 1972, is a gauzy discussion of free speech and the Equal Protection Clause. (There is probably a similar story about the Free Exercise Clause cases of that period, most especially Wisconsin v. Yoder.)

But just like Josh Neff in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco tries too hard in one of the final scenes of the movie to hold on to the era (“Disco was too great, and too much fun, to be gone forever! It's got to come back someday. I just hope it will be in our own lifetimes.”), free speech law has left behind the functionalism of the 1970s and 80s and moved in a decidedly more formalist direction. Cases now come in sharply delineated categories, the application of strict scrutiny to all content-based regulation of speech does a lot of work across a wide range of cases (as seen this week in NIFLA v. Becerra), and opinions often begin with a principle (in Janus, no compelled subsidization of speech) and reason deductively to the holding (Abood got around to a brief discussion of the "impact upon [employees'] First Amendment interests" after several pages of discussion about agency shop arrangements and labor policy). It's hard to know when the disco era started coming to an end, but Justice Scalia's opinion in RAV v. St. Paul in 1992 is a good marker.

This is all very general, of course, with a lot of details to be filled in. But in the opinions by Justices Alito and Kagan, I think we can see the difference between the functionalism of the free speech disco era and the formalism of today. For what it’s worth, my own views are strongly in the direction of formalism, and I think Justice Alito’s opinion is thoroughly correct—a topic for another day.

June 28, 2018 in Moreland, Michael | Permalink

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Court invalidates agency-fees requirement for public employees

The Supreme Court's decision in Janus is here.  In my view, while the stare decisis concerns about overruling Abood (which I have always thought was, to quote Justice Aliton, "poorly reasoned"), this result is the correct one, in that Abood and mandatory agency-fees had become outliers in the Court's First Amendment doctrine and precedents.  There will, of course, be a flood of commentary focusing on the political /partisan implications of the ruling, but I don't believe that commentary should obscure what I regard as the basic point that a public employee should not be required, as a condition of public employment, to support financially (and therefore, under the Court's precedents, to associate with) partisan and political activities to which he or she objects.  

I'll also note -- as I have many (Ed.:  Too many, Rick) times on this blog, that it is (with all due respect to the USCCB) mistaken to claim that Rerum Novarum, or the Church's social teaching on work and workers' rights more generally, requires or even counsels support for legal requirements that public employees support the partisan activities of today's public-employee unions. Nor is it "libertarian," or "individualistic," or "Randian," etc., to conclude that a Supreme Court charged with enforcing the First Amendment should invalidate such requirements.

Workers (in the public and in the private sectors) have a constitutional and moral right to form associations and to advocate in and through those associations for their interests. They do not, in my view, have either a constitutional or a moral right to enlist government power to require those who have different views about those interests to contribute to their partisan or inescapably political activities. (It is clear that the pre-Janus requirements that public-employee unions allow objecting workers to withhold funds for ideological activities are not strictly observed.)

I welcome others' reactions, of course! 

June 27, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Religious Freedom Gestalts

When the big Obamacare case came down in 2012, one of the most interesting features of the resulting ferment was Larry Solum's insight that the disagreement between the sides could be understood as a fundamental divergence as to overarching conceptions of the scope of the Commerce Clause and the validity of the "New Deal Settlement." A "gestalt" is an organizing framework for understanding a particular legal issue--a jurisprudential weltanschauung. A gestalt is "the big picture that integrates a high-level description of doctrine with vindicating narratives and justifying normative theories." The gestalt does not mandate a particular outcome. But it situates and shapes the general perception of a case in such a way as to orient the interpreter in a very particular direction. 

Larry's insight was that there are competing gestalts when it comes to the Commerce Clause. One gestalt--informed heavily by the New Deal--has it that "Congress had plenary and virtually unlimited legislative power—subject, of course, to the limits imposed by the individual rights provisions of the Constitution." "Imagine," wrote Larry,

a sea of federal power that spans the globe. The New Federalism decisions of the Rehnquist Court created islands of state power, including the anticommandeering principle of Printz v. United States and New York v. United States, the expanded Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity doctrine of Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, and the Lopez and Morrison limits on the Commerce Clause. Thus, the prevailing gestalt underwent modification—the ocean of federal power was dotted with isolated islands of state sovereignty—but the basic pattern (the sea of federal power) remained intact.

The alternative gestalt, in Solum's telling, accepts the New Deal Settlement but adopts a "this far and no further" attitude toward it. The New Federalism cases (Lopez, Morrison, and now possibly NFIB, etc.) correct the errors of the most extreme of the New Deal gestalt cases (e.g., Wickard) and invert the oceanic metaphor. It is state, not federal, power that controls the gestalt. Or at least it should and it will.

I want to suggest that recent cases involving religious freedom, and many future cases, reflect a working out of a parallel set of gestalts as to religious freedom. And the competing gestalts are likely to become more fixed in the coming years--more distinct and therefore less capable of reconciliation. They are fundamentally different ways of seeing things.

In what one could call the "dominant" or perhaps "establishment" gestalt--the Everson dispensation, let's call it--the Court vigorously polices any suggestion that what has been the historically dominant religion in this country--Christianity--appears to receive any preferential treatment, recognition, or even historical acknowledgment by the government. That has been, as I discuss here, the primary way in which "separation of church and state" has been worked out as informing the Establishment Clause since 1947. The working out of the Everson dispensation was a project undertaken over decades by its champions, ostensibly under the banner of "religious neutrality" but in reality with a very distinctive effect (if not an intent) that was not neutral whether or not so perceived. Free exercise, for the Everson dispensation, existed in the majority of the 20th century primarily as a gesture of noblesse oblige to the unthreateningly strange and exotic. It was never intended to extend a set of legal defenses for traditional forms of Christianity, since Christianity held a dominant historical and socio-cultural position that needed to be destabilized. The effect of this dual action of the dominant gestalt was systematically to shrink the public political presence of Christianity in the national civic ethos and at the same time to increase the importance of "religion" as an individual right of spiritual self seeking. This was "religious freedom" in the dominant gestalt, and it was an enormously successful jurisprudential project from the early 20th century through the early 21st. For this project, the objective was continuing progress along the lines mentioned. To continue to shrink the civic and political influence of Christianity while at the same time rendering the idea of "religion" as an individual good more powerful. But a vital part of this project involves the monitoring of Christian civic influence and efforts towards its continuing diminution. For adherents of the dominant gestalt, cases like Hobby Lobby, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and Town of Greece, are evidence of dangerous stalling. Cases like Trump v. Hawaii in combination with Masterpiece are deeply threatening because they are evidence that Christianity (or, in even more strongly held versions of the claim, "white" Christianity) continues to be preferred over other religions despite the best efforts of the Everson dispensation's champions. It is no consolation at all to hear the Trump v. Hawaii majority's reassurance that the Everson dispensation still controls for holiday displays and high school graduations. Failure to progress is regression.

The other gestalt (I don't have a catchy name for it--let's go with gestalt #2) accepts certain basic understandings of church-state separation. Just as in the Commerce Clause division, there is not a wholesale rejection by gestalt #2 of gestalt #1. But whatever gestalt #2's "this far and no further" stance might look like, it was bypassed years ago. Gestalt #2 holds that the Everson dispensation largely has done its work: to diminish the public influence of Christianity and replace it with "religion"--always ill-defined or intentionally non-defined--as an individual experience. There are divisions within this gestalt. Some of its proponents feel that Christianity merits a special place in the national culture; some take the weaker view that it is at least not unconstitutional to recognize such a place, whether it actually exists or not; and some believe that Christianity merits at least similar (or even equal) favorable treatment to other religious traditions, generally through application of free exercise principles.  These divisions have not been fully plumbed because gestalt #2 has never achieved any real salience in 20th-21st century religion clause law. Where it generally attempts to hold the line as to Christianity today is in issues of compelling Christian believers to act in ways that violate their own convictions (Hobby Lobby, Zubik, Masterpiece, Becerra in its way). And this is precisely where, today, it comes into some conflict with the Everson dispensation, whose imperative is to continue to diminish Christianity--or at least conservative Christianity--as a force in American public life. This is gestalt #2's "this far and no further" stand, having been soundly defeated over decades in making its stand at previous possible way stations (just follow the path of Establishment Clause jurisprudence since 1947 for the grand tour). When those who favor the alternative gestalt hear proponents of the dominant gestalt cry out that Masterpiece plus Trump v. Hawaii represents a retrogression--Christianity beating back and beating out other religions--most do not share that view. It is a view that does not account for the massive losses sustained by Christianity at the Court's hands for the last near-century, and the massive reconception of the nature of "religion" undertaken by the Court's jurisprudence in that period. Of course, those losses and reconceptions were not occasioned by the Court alone. But the Court was much more than sympathetic to them; it did what it could to push them along, and successfully too. And the losses have not been limited to religious freedom cases proper. Just have a look, say the proponents of gestalt #2, at the havoc wrought by the Court's substantive due process cases. Those, in combination with the religious freedom canon of the dominant gestalt, have been devastating. Telling a Christian baker that he doesn't have to bake a cake for a ceremony he finds immoral, or a Christian company that it doesn't have to pay for contraceptive products for its employees, or a Christian pregnancy center that it doesn't have to advertise the availability and desirability of abortion...these are tiny and rather pathetic victories (most of them achieved by a bare 5-4 vote) in a wasteland of failure, to be followed in future by more failures. They are hardly signs that gestalt #2 is suddenly ascendant. They are not even signs of, as Larry puts it, a "gestalt shift."

Here's a final prediction. The divisions are likely to increase, in part because of gestalt #1's imperative of progress and gestalt #2's imperative of stasis (at best). If the prediction is correct, and if the Court's members break fairly evenly as between the two gestalts, we can reliably expect more spasms of outrage and disappointment with each new case in this area. These are not disputes over doctrine or even principle. They are deep disagreements over worldview, and over the kind of society we wish to be and become. 

June 27, 2018 in DeGirolami, Marc | Permalink

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Prof. Carl Esbeck on Trump v. Hawaii and the Establishment Clause

MOJ-friend and law-and-religion expert Prof. Carl Esbeck (Missouri) has shared this essay on today's Trump v. Hawaii decision and its implications for Establishment Clause claims:

The President’s Immigration Travel Ban:

What Trump v. Hawaii Has to Say About Stating a Claim Under the Establishment Clause

Carl H. Esbeck[*]

 It is little appreciated that the United States Supreme Court’s decision today in Trump v. Hawaii, No. 17-965, in addition to addressing the scope of presidential power concerning the entry of foreign nationals into the country, concerns the First Amendment on religious freedom. In particular, the case is instructive regarding the elements for stating a claim under the Establishment Clause, as well as clarifying those harms that are redressable by the clause.

Writing for a 5-4 Court, Chief Justice Roberts held that President Trump did not exceed his authority as outlined in congressional legislation. He also said that he did not today reach the Establishment Clause question, but only because a lower standard of review is applied to constitutional claims in this context of immigration and national security concerns. The case is far from over, however, as the matter was remanded back to the lower courts for further proceedings. That could entail additional fact finding and renewal of claims not before the Court today.

At the center of Trump v. Hawaii is Proclamation No. 9645, an order captioned Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Process for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats.[1] The proclamation is the third iteration of President Trump’s so-called “immigration travel ban” directed at foreign nationals from eight nations, six of which are Muslim-majority in population. The central allegation is that the President, by targeting nations with overwhelming Muslim majorities, was motivated by discriminatory intent toward those of the Islamic religion. Throughout the country lawsuits were filed alleging that the executive order: (i) conflicted with the President’s authority as detailed in congressional legislation; (ii) exceeded the President’s power in the Constitution; and, (iii) violated the First Amendment on religious freedom. Finding the pleadings meritorious, federal district courts entered nationwide preliminary injunctions against the President and the departmental secretaries charged with implementing the proclamation. The injunctions were later upheld in various circuit courts of appeal.[2]

Trump v. Hawaii came to the Supreme Court from the Ninth Circuit. The case was decided in the circuit on the bases that in issuing Proclamation No. 9645 the President exceeded his authority under congressional statutes.[3] The Ninth Circuit did not reach the Plaintiffs’ alternative claims, among which were claims under the Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Supreme Court granted certiorari on the question concerning presidential powers, as well as on the claim that the proclamation violated the Establishment Clause.[4]

The suit was brought by three types of plaintiffs.[5] The State of Hawaii alleged proprietary harms to its own agencies and loss of revenue, including hindering the operation of the state university in enrolling students and recruiting qualified faculty.[6] Three individual Plaintiffs, Dr. Ismail Elshikh and John Does 1 and 2, alleged that as U.S. citizens they had a statutory right to bring family that are closely related by blood or marriage to live in the United States. But the planned relocations were waylaid by the proclamation. Finally, an associational Plaintiff, Muslim Association of Hawaii, Inc., likewise had members whose family relocations were interrupted, and it reported that the entity was losing members because they found affiliation with an Islamic organization brought members unfavorable attention.[7] These individual and associational Plaintiffs are Muslim and, unlike the State of Hawaii, they can allege religious injury. Aliens abroad typically have no constitutional rights, but these domestic Plaintiffs raised their own legal rights and averred losses and injuries specific to themselves.

Deferential Review Under the Establishment Clause?

Because the alleged religious discrimination was directed at foreign nationals, the Government argued that Plaintiffs’ constitutional claims were subject to a standard of review that was highly deferential to the Government. Kleindienst v. Mandel[8] held that courts should engage in only limited judicial review when a U.S. citizen contends that the denial of a visa to an alien abroad violates the citizen’s own constitutional rights. Under Mandel, the Government need only give “a facially legitimate and bona fide reason” for its adverse decision toward entry of a foreign national said to have caused harm to the U.S. citizen filing suit.[9] Once the Government has stated to the court a lawful reason for its actions and the reason appears truthful, that is the end of the matter. The citizen-plaintiff does not get to probe into whether the Government’s explanation is pretextual.

In a parallel case, the Fourth Circuit earlier found that the Government’s proffered national security rationale for the proclamation was not bona fide.[10] There also have been exceptions to the rule in Mandel involving constitutional rights like free speech and due process. So far, however, the exceptions are few and the direction of the law is uncertain. Finally, some Justices were on record as wanting to modify Mandel and permit pretextual challenges. Chief Justice Roberts, for the Court, noted the conventional Mandel rule but elected not to apply it. Slip op. 30-32. Instead, he applied a rational-basis standard of review which does permit pretextual challenges. Slip op. 32. He likely took this path so as not to lose his majority, divided as there likely were over Mandel. The Chief Justice proceeded to find that the proclamation was rational and so administered. Slip op. 33-38.

While claiming to not reach the Establishment Clause claim, the majority proceeded to lower the rigor of its protection to rational basis in this limited context. This drew a dissent by Justice Sotomayor. Slip op. 15-16 n. 6 (Sotomayor, J., dissenting). This is so, rejoined the Chief Justice, not just as to the Establishment Clause but as to all constitutional rights and restraints. Slip op. 32-33 n.5. It is all because of the special context of executive authority concerning national security and immigration. So, on remand, the less rigorous standard will apply to the Plaintiffs’ Free Exercise Clause claim, but not to the RFRA claim and its requirement of strict scrutiny. Citing Romer v. Evans, the Court says that a showing of animus against a class would show irrationality. Slip op. 33. What is not clear is if a law can fail rational-basis review in the absence of animus.

The Supreme Court, however, did not need to resolve whether to follow the Mandel rule here, or fashion a new one of rational-basis review. As will be shown below the Establishment Clause claims fail on bases as straightforward as the Constitution’s text.

What Does the Establishment Clause Prohibit?

            The Supreme Court’s case law has developed two lines of authority or rules under the Establishment Clause that are possibly relevant here.

Rule 1 is that the Establishment Clause prohibits government from intentionally discriminating among religions, that is, preferring one religion over another. In such cases the injury is a type of discrimination, such as a religious claimant missing out on some governmental advantage afforded those of other religions.

The leading case is Larson v. Valente.[11] In Larson, the Supreme Court held that the Establishment Clause was violated by state legislation regulating solicitation by charities where the statute purposefully favored long-standing or well-known churches over new religious movements. There was evidence that legislators explicitly sought to assist well-known or familiar churches because they were deemed not in need of oversight, whereas certain new religions were suspect and their fund-raising methods aggressive and so unwelcome.[12] To intentionally favor one group of religions over another group of religions is to advance the former and suppress the latter. So it makes sense to regard the legislation in Larson as a forbidden “establishment” of the favored churches.

            Instances of government openly favoring one religion over another are uncommon. Gillette v. United States[13] is the only other Establishment Clause case of this sort to reach the High Court. In Gillette, the complaint was that a religious exemption to the military draft accommodated those who opposed all wars for religious reasons but did not accommodate those who opposed only unjust wars for religious reasons. The claimant was deemed to have stated a prima facie claim under the Establishment Clause for government preferring one religious doctrine over a competing doctrine. However, the Court went on to hold that Congress had sufficient nonreligious reasons to justify making the distinction. Because there was no intent to favor one religion over another religion, there was no violation of the Establishment Clause.[14] Larson is thus the only case decided by the Court where the religious claimant actually succeeded in proving a violation of Rule 1.

Rule 2 is that the Establishment Clause prohibits government from enforcing a religious preference, that is, an intentional preferring of religion over the secular. In such cases the injury is temporal or nonreligious. For example, the harm is a pecuniary or economic loss, as in Estate of Thornton v. Caldor[15] and Larkin v. Grendel’s Den.[16] Or the temporal injury is a state’s hindrance of open academic inquiry, as in Edwards v. Aguillard[17] and Epperson v. Arkansas.[18] Or the harm is the inability to hold a public office due to a religious test, as in Torcaso v. Watkins.[19] In each of these cases there was an intentional favoring of religion over the secular, which fits the First Amendment’s text of forbidding the “mak[ing of a] … law respecting an establishment of religion.“[20] As can be seen, a claimant does not have to first subscribe to a religion to successfully state a claim under the Establishment Clause.

The reverse of Rule 2, namely, the government favoring the secular over the religious, is not a forbidden establishment. This is only common sense. The plain text of the clause forbids the “mak[ing of a] … law respecting an establishment of religion.” Nothing in the text prohibits going the other way, namely: preferring the secular over religion. Government cannot establish a religion by aiding the secular. Rather, any favoring of the secular over religion will have to be framed as a challenge under the Free Exercise Clause.

In their briefs, Plaintiffs quote McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky,[21] where courts seeking to determine whether an act by an official had an improper “religious purpose” are instructed to look to “the text, legislative history, and implementation of the statute, or comparable official act” in question.[22] Applying this test, Plaintiffs aver that a governmental law disfavoring religion can implicate the Establishment Clause.[23] That is not just wrong, but silly—a mindless application of the three-prong Lemon test wholly disconnected from the constitutional text the Plaintiffs are invoking. A government cannot establish a religion by disfavoring it. To make matters worse, in its Opening Brief the Government seems to go along with Plaintiffs and repeats the error that official acts “of favoring or disfavoring religion can implicate the Establishment Clause.”[24]

In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor cites McCreary County, as well as Larson, Edwards, Epperson, and other cases decided under the Establishment Clause for the proposition that the clause is violated not only when religion is favored over the secular but when the secular is favored over religion. Slip. op. 2-3 (Sotomayor, J., dissenting). But all the cases cited are ones where government favored religion over the secular, never the reverse. And for good reason: it makes no sense to say the government is establishing religion when under the facts it is suppressing religion.

Application of these Rules on Remand

The State of Hawaii is not a religion, nor does it subscribe to one. So Rule 1, which requires discrimination among religions, is of no use to the State. Rule 2 requires an intentional preferring of religion over the secular. But the State’s claim goes in the other direction, to wit:  by discriminating against Muslims the proclamation prefers the secular concern for national security over religion. So Rule 2 is of no use to the State. Hawaii cannot state a claim under the Establishment Clause.

            The individual and associational Plaintiffs are Islamic and allege a colorable claim of religious injury. Rule 1 is that the Establishment Clause prohibits government from intentionally preferring one religion over another religion. Islam is disfavored. But does Proclamation No. 9645 advance Christianity, Judaism, or some other religion by discriminating against Muslims? I suppose it is remotely possible to envision Christianity or Judaism as receiving some benefit from Proclamation No. 9645, but it is just as likely or more so that the fortunes of other religions are unaffected or even damaged by the proclamation.[25] In any event, that either Christianity or Judaism are advanced by the proclamation is wholly speculative and unproven by the Plaintiffs. Rule 1 is out.

Nor does Proclamation No. 9645 establish or otherwise prefer Islam over the secular, the subject of Rule 2. Indeed, if anything the proclamation does the opposite: preferring the secular concern for national security over religion. Preferring the secular over religion is the opposite of establishing religion. Rule 2 is out.

It follows that neither the State of Hawaii nor the individual and institutional Plaintiffs can state a claim under the Establishment Clause.

What About the Free Exercise Clause?

A pleading framed as the government preferring the secular over religion requires turning to the Free Exercise Clause. However, from the plain language of the clause’s text (“make no law … prohibiting the free exercise of [religion].”), a person or organization must first have a religion before it can be exercised.[26] The State of Hawaii has no religion to exercise and thus can suffer no religious burden or injury. Hawaii cannot state a claim under the Free Exercise Clause.

The individual and associational Plaintiffs do have a colorable claim of religious injury and did set out in their amended complaint a count under the Free Exercise Clause. Under Oregon Employment Division v. Smith[27] and Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah,[28] the federal government is prohibited from singling out a religion, such as Islam, for adverse treatment. Animus need not be shown, just intent.[29] Normally such laws receive strict scrutiny and will be sustained only if the government can satisfy the compelling interest test.[30]

The Plaintiffs’ Free Exercise Clause and RFRA claims were not in the Court’s grant of certiorari. However, today Trump v. Hawaii was remanded to the lower courts for further proceedings. Slip op. 38-39. Normally the individual and associational Plaintiffs would have an opportunity to show that the proclamation was issued with discriminatory intent. However, the Court today held that all constitutional rights were subject to mere rational basis review. Slip op. 32-33 n.5. In the holding today and given this record, the Court found the proclamation rational, so on remand it will be difficult to prevail on the Free Exercise Clause unless the record is reopened and new and rather damming evidence is admitted. The RFRA claim, however, is by its own terms not limited by the special context of national security and presidential authority.

* * *

Nothing in the foregoing is to be taken as condoning governmental discrimination against Muslims or the President’s intemperate remarks on Islam and immigration. Both are to be deplored.

 

[*]R.B. Price Professor Emeritus and Isabella Wade & Paul C. Lyda Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Missouri.

 

[1] 82 Fed. Reg. 45,161 (Sept. 24, 2017).

[2] See, e.g., Int’l Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, 883 F.3d 233 (4th Cir. 2018) (en banc), petition for cert. filed U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 17-1270.

[3] Hawaii v. Trump, 878 F.3d 662, 683-98 (9th Cir. 2017) (per curiam).

[4] 138 S. Ct. 923 (Jan. 5, 2018). A few weeks earlier the Court had granted a stay of the injunction pending appellate review. 138 S. Ct. 542 (Dec. 4, 2017).

[5] The multiple counts in Plaintiffs’ third amended complaint are summarized in Hawaii v. Trump, 878 F.3d at 674.

[6] Id. at 682.

[7] Id. at 678, 681-82.

[8] 408 U.S. 753 (1972).

[9] Id. at 770.

[10] Int’l Refugee Assistance Project, 883 F.3d at 264-65.

[11] 456 U.S. 228, 253-54 (1982).

[12] Id. at 231-33, 246-47 n.23, 250-51, 254-55.

[13] 401 U.S. 437 (1971).

[14] In contrast to a claim of intentional discrimination among religions, when a general law has a disparate effect among religions the Establishment Clause is not violated. See Hernandez v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 490 U.S. 680, 696 (1989) (limitations on charitable deductions in federal income tax law that had disparate impact on the giving patterns of members of a particular church did not violate the Establishment Clause); Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574, 604 n.30 (1983) (discrimination among religions that have differing beliefs concerning race was not purposeful, but the unintended effect of the IRS’s facially neutral regulation); cf. Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 246 n.23 (1982) (dicta to effect that state regulatory act was not generally applicable legislation having disparate impact, but intentionally drafted to favor well-known churches while targeting new religious movements).

[15] 472 U.S. 703 (1985) (upholding claim by department store against Sabbath labor law).

[16] 459 U.S. 116 (1982) (upholding claim by tavern seeking liquor license blocked by nearby church).

[17] 482 U.S. 578 (1987) (striking down state law that required teaching of creation in public school science classes if evolution is taught).

[18] 393 U.S. 97 (1968) (striking down state prohibition on teaching evolution in public school science classes).

[19] 367 U.S. 488 (1961) (atheist kept from public office because state required oath professing belief in God).

[20] Care must be taken not to confuse a religious preference with a religious exemption. The Establishment Clause will strike down an unyielding religious preference. Religious exemptions are altogether different, however, and have been consistently upheld by the Supreme Court because exemptions do not entail “state action” that causes harm to others. See Carl H. Esbeck, Do Discretionary Religious Exemptions Violate the Establishment Clause?, 106 Kty. L. J. no. 4 (June 2018).

[21] 545 U.S. 844 (2005).

[22] Id. at 862 (internal quotation marks omitted).

[23] Cf. Int’l Refugee Assistance Project, 883 F.3d at 256 (“The Plaintiffs allege that the Proclamation violates the Establishment Clause by disfavoring Muslims.”).

[24] Trump v. Hawaii, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 17-965, Brief for the Petitioners, p. 65 (filed Feb. 21, 2018) (emphasis added).

[25] When a Muslim community believes it is under persecution by a democratic state, that may cause tension with Christians, Jews, or other religions, or at least engender resentment toward those of other faiths who have the votes stop the persecution but fail to do so. Thus, it might be conjectured that every religion is harmed by the rise in tensions among them.

[26] There is no claim under the Free Exercise Clause unless a plaintiff first professes a religion. Frazee v. Illinois Dep't of Empl. Security, 489 U.S. 829, 833 (1989) (noting that only beliefs rooted in religion are protected by the Free Exercise Clause; secular views will not suffice); Thomas v. Review Bd., 450 U.S. 707, 713-14 (1981) (noting that only beliefs rooted in religion are protected by the Free Exercise Clause); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 215-16 (1972) (identifying religious claims that are “personal” and “philosophical” and those "merely a matter of personal preference" as not protected by free exercise). This understanding aligns with the drafting history of the Free Exercise Clause in the First Federal Congress of 1789. See Carl H. Esbeck, Uses and Abuses of Textualism and Originalism in Establishment Clause Interpretation, 2011 Utah L. Rev. 489, 525-67 (2011); see especially id. at 563.

[27] 494 U.S. 872, 884 (1990).

[28] 508 U.S. 520 (1993).

[29] Shrum v. City of Coweta, 449 F.3d 1132, 1145 (10th Cir. 2006).

[30] See Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418, 430-32 (2006) (describing the focused, case-by-case nature of the compelling interest test in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is the same test as under the Free Exercise Clause).

June 26, 2018 in Garnett, Rick | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Red Hen & Resistance

Over the weekend, the President’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant by the owner after employees voted to refuse service based on the press secretary’s behavior defending the President’s policies.  There are reasons to be concerned with this and similar incidents. The Red Hen’s owner explained, “We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one.”

I’m all for moral agency in the commercial sphere, but I need some clarity about the moral claims at issue here.  A question for the Red Hen owner: what conviction – moral? political? culinary? -- would have been implicated, much less violated, by serving a meal to Sanders and her family? The Red Hen was not asked to cater a Trump rally or administration meeting.  If our moral convictions expand to encompass a guilt-by-association mindset applicable to all aspects of officials’ private lives, our era promises to become even more corrosive to political discourse and meaningful respect for rights of conscience, properly understood.

Would a Catholic restaurant owner be justified in refusing service to a late-term abortion provider, for example? I don’t think so.  What would be the objective of that exclusion?  What is the risk of scandal being avoided?  What edifying moral claim is being presented to the community?

Note that I’m not arguing that the Catholic restaurant owner or Red Hen owner should be legally prohibited from denying service based on a person's political views or practices – just that denying service for those reasons would not be morally justified.  (Even on the moral dimension, I don't think there is much helpful insight to draw from the Masterpiece Cakeshop case -- refusing service because you are morally opposed to what a person stands for is different than refusing to participate in an act that you believe is immoral.)

A broader point about emerging strains of “resistance” in American politics. The Church teaches that “[r]esistance to authority is meant to attest to the validity of a different way of looking at things.” (Compendium para. 400) Resistance, understood in this light, is not about public shaming, virtue signaling, or the intentional destruction of lives and reputations. It is not the all-consuming “No!”  It is, in the end, about the “Yes”—articulating and living out of an alternative vision of what can be.  Denying someone service in a place of public accommodation based on who they are or what they have done might feel good, but it is not resistance.

June 25, 2018 in Vischer, Rob | Permalink