RWU Law Review Symposium, Sponsored by the Freedom from Religion Foundation Foundation, "Made No Attempt to Create a Balanced Symposium."

"We made no effort to seek out scholars who we thought would answer yes to the question our Symposium poses."


In September 2020, the Roger Williams Law Review held a symposium. The theme was "Is this a Christian Nation?" Professor Carl Bogus wrote the introduction to the issue. Here is a snippet:

We are grateful to the Freedom From Religion Foundation for providing a generous grant that allowed us to recruit some of the most distinguished scholars and thinkers on this subject. It needs to be noted that we made no attempt to create a balanced symposium. That is, we made no effort to seek out scholars who we thought would answer yes to the question our Symposium poses. We did that because we believe that opposite viewpoint—that America should not consider itself a Christian nation—is underrepresented in the current debate. However, the contributors were entirely free to speak and write as they so desired. In no fashion, were they encouraged to take or discouraged from taking any position. You will find their contributions in the pages that follow well worth your consideration.

A symposium on the Separation of Church and State was sponsored by the leading organization that promotes the Separation of Church and State. The word "recruit" suggests that generous honoraria were offered. And the organizers felt no need to invite a balanced panel, because the perspective that "America is a Christian nation" is overrepresented in the current debate. I can count on two hands the number of law professors who would argue in public that America is a Christian nation, whatever that even means. Still, I appreciate Professor Bogus's candor. If you wish to read what Erwin Chemerinsky, Marci Hamilton, and other likeminded professors think about the Establishment Clause, check out the symposium.

In 2018, I spoke at the Roger Williams Law Review symposium. The topic that year was immigration law in the Trump Administration. I was happy to serve as the token conservative. I wrote about the travel ban and the Establishment Clause. I'm grateful that an attempt at balance was made that year.

NEXT: Government Action and Constitutional Rights

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  1. The word “recruit” suggests that generous honoraria were offered.

    It does?

    1. I am an atheist to the extreme. Some information free, dumb black hole of many exploded and made our universe. Our creator is a uncaring DNA molecule. Cockroach or dinosaur, it has no feeling about it, except to reproduce.

      Nevertheless, I appreciate, respect, and seek to preserve religion on utilitarian grounds. See Weber. Religious societies run better, are richer, and are more civilized. Religion is 100 times more effective than the lawyer at persuading people to take care of their families, and to not live the Roman Orgy lifestyle. Religion is an effective competitor to the utterly failed lawyer profession. Naturally, it must be destroyed with frivolous litigation, and propaganda assaults from all sides. Government is a wholly owned subsidiary of this failed profession, and will replace religion.

      These scumbags will never address the supernatural core doctrines of the common law, nor its plagiarism of the Catechism of 1275 AD. Pretty ironic. Lawyer scumbags with supernatural beliefs having the unmitigated gall to criticize any religious activity. Someone should ask these subhuman scumbags. Do you believe, minds can be read, the future forecast, and that standards of conduct should be set by a fictitious character? That last one is to make the standards objective. But the scumbag lawyer is just lying. That character has to be called fictitious because he is really Jesus. What would have happened if I had stood up and asked those questions?

      Their fake atheism is a masking ideology for the takeover of our country by the failed lawyer profession and by its subsidiary, the worthless, rent seeking, tyrannical government.

      1. My view of the matter is that religion co-evolved with humanity. So that our brains have, in effect, a “religion socket”. Unless you’re a very unusual person indeed, it is NOT going to be empty.

        If you don’t plug a time tested, demonstrably functional religion into it, it’s going to latch onto some other belief system, and treat THAT like a religion. Marxism or fascism. Feminism. Scientism. There are lots of isms that can fit that socket.

        There are only two certainties:

        1) It will be something.


        2) It’s probably NOT going to be something that has spent centuries evolving towards non-virulence.

        1. I hate to disappoint you, but I’m a atheist, but not a Communist or (by a rational definition) a fascist.

          1. Agnostics can plausibly claim to have left that socket empty. Atheists? That’s a positive belief about something, just another ism.

            1. Only to the extent that not believing astrology, palm reading, or weather predictions from groundhogs is a positive belief about someth

              I don’t actually like the term atheist because it defines me by what I don’t belief. The list of things I don’t believe is a long one. In addition to God, it also includes, well, astrology, palm reading, weather predictions from groundhogs, phrenology, that Hillary Clinton had Vince Foster killed and ran a pedophile ring, and that Lee Harvey Oswald was lovers with Jack Ruby. So, of all the long list of things I don’t believe, why does God get special billing? And how about defining me by what I do believe.

              And Brett, I’d like to see some evidence that religion is evolving toward non-virulence. Granted, some religions are more virulent then others. But there is still more than enough religious violence to make me think it’s anywhere near approaching non-virulent. Maybe give it another couple of millenia.

            2. I have no opinion about religion because it doesn’t interest me…so I am not agnostic nor atheist nor religious…I really don’t care one way or the other.

            3. “Scientism” is typically an insult for people who believe anything written by an authority, but it would more properly apply to believing in anything that you can see and observe. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it would apply to the best atheists that I know.

          2. It’s filled with politics. And both sides do, so many have two religions.

            Religions and politics are both giant “memeplexes”, clusters of memes that evolved to work together to spread to new host units. They both contain some variant of the meme we are good people if we can just seize control so we can spread even faster, through force, rather than mere persuasion, the normal route of meme reproduction.

            One memeplex type even forbade the other from being officially able to do this about 240 years ago.

            The problem is this type still desires to insinuate its fingers into everything, just differing a little based on subspecies: conservative or liberal.

        2. Religiosity is a brain stress response. It is in all cultures. There is no escaping it. It is a benefit overall. We have to stop the lawyer attacks on it via frivolous sex abuse litigation. The judges supporting this plunder should be driven out of state.

      2. What would have happened if I had stood up and asked those questions?

        You’d have been committed, just like you probably actually were.

        1. Thank you for the KGB response. Aren’t you a lawyer? Law school destroyed your intellect and ethics.

  2. That’s in keeping with the way the gun control symposia the eponymous Prof has been involved in were run, so no surprise.

    Understand that, by “a Christian nation”, what they meant was, “a nation where Christians are tolerated”.

    1. The Framers saw a robust religious market place as a check against tyranny just like well regulated state militias with officers appointed by the respective states were a check against tyranny. So when tyranny reared its gaunt ugly horse face in 1861 many of the federal military remained loyal to their states and most of the religious leaders also remained loyal to their states. So commonly a tyrant would take over the state religion (or quasi state religion) by getting loyalists into leadership positions in the religion in order to consolidate power…that was almost impossible in America because we had so many powerful religious organizations.

    2. The biggest mistake made in 1787 was not explicitly stating what was implied: America is a Christian nation.

      Oh, ant that a marriage consists of one person with a penis and another with a vagina.

      Both were so widely assumed that no one thought it necessary…

      1. what was implied: America is a Christian nation.

        Not implied at all.

        In fact, my guess is that the founders would have rejected that proposition had it been introduced.

        1. With the history of Christian conflict being much more recent in their minds than ours, I think the founders certainly would have been, at best, skeptical about any pronouncements on our country’s being “Christian” – even if they felt, culturally speaking, like it really was.

          There’s an irony here, in that people who proclaim that “America is a Christian nation” can do so with the confidence that only a person who has never experienced religious persecution or regulation by religious ideologues with whom they disagreed. It is not too hard to imagine the number of religious disputes that would come to the fore, the instant we were to embrace our character as a “Christian nation.” What’s permitted on the Sabbath? When is the Sabbath? What can be worn outdoors, by whom, and who decides? What can be eaten, by whom, and prepared in what ways?

          These Dominionists always seem to think that embracing Christianity as the national religion would go no further than endorsing some non-denominational prayer in public schools and events, acknowledging the existence of God in public documents, maybe some light regulation of sexual practices that the vast majority of Christians agree are proscribable (if any). But non-Christians know the truth – there would be epic disputes over increasingly minute distinctions of belief and dogma, mapped over political sub-groups vying for power. Just like it was in Europe, once, and like it is in the Muslim world, now.

          Fools, the lot of them.

    3. Understand that, by “a Christian nation”, what they meant was, “a nation where Christians are tolerated”.

      Oh, bullshit.

      Poor persecuted US Christians! Stop the ridiculous whining.

        1. Being a Christian isn’t why he’s being prosecuted.

          1. You’re not entirely wrong – he’s being prosecuted for acting like a Christian.

            Distinction without difference.

            1. Were the Mormon polygamists prosecuted for acting like Mormons, or for practicing polygamy?

            2. Yeah, I remember the part in the Bible when Christ had the loaves and the fishes and was feeding everyone, but then some with a beard came up wearing a toga and he was like “oh HELL no” and refused to give them any.

  3. I am somewhat sympathetic to his argument, I also think views I oppose are overrepresented in the public debate and don’t deserve being provided a platform.

    1. Are all the questions you ask rhetorical ones?

      (No need to answer that, we already know.)

      1. I don’t ask questions.

        I just give answers.

  4. Freethinker = isn’t allowed to believe in God.
    Freedom from Religion = making people believe gender is a spectrum. Men and women are identical down to the atom. Defund the police. Communism is good but just hasn’t been down correct.

    Sounds legit.

    1. Incorrect

      Freethinker = Avoids assumptions and baseless assertions in acts of contemplation.

      Freedom from Religion = Nothing that you said. To have a freedom OF religion, one must also be free FROM obligations to religions that one doesn’t wish to practice. For example, if you wish to attend a Christian religious service would you consider yourself free to do so if our government required you to bow towards Mecca?

  5. “We did that because we believe that opposite viewpoint—that America should not consider itself a Christian nation—is underrepresented in the current debate.”

    Heroic dissenters boldly speaking truth to power.

    1. Their courage should inspire us all. These academics might get stripped of their tenure and fired, yet they dare speak out.

    2. It’s probably under-represented among the general public, while being over-represented among everybody in any kind of position of power.

      1. If only we had some kind of limits we could put on our governments to protect minorities from the tyranny of a majority. And maybe some kind of rules about what kind of exclusion and refusal to deal might be allowed for various important types of minorities. And maybe institutions of the press that would tell the general public about the merits of these positions that are under-represented among the public (… whatever “under-represented” means in that context). Then maybe we could live without so much fear of the public holding wrong opinions.

        1. Are you suggesting that Christians are a persecuted minority in the US?

          Wow! you really are off the deep end, aren’t you?

          1. You WILL bake that cake!

            1. The cake-bakers are not being persecuted for being Christian. They’re being persecuted for discriminating against LGBT people. Anyone engaged in the same activity, for whatever reason, would be subject to the same sanctions.

              Christians admittedly do claim to believe that their religious beliefs about homosexuality and transgenderism compel them to use their limited power over others to condemn and reject homosexual and transgendered individuals, so that anti-discrimination laws protecting such individuals inhibit the “free exercise” of their religion. While these claims are ridiculous on their face – they do not follow from any specific proscription in the Bible or any coherent construction of Christian morality – our law is actually quite accepting of these claims, so long as they are shown to be sincerely-held.

              So, contrary to your sour-faced, fact-free whinge, not even the cake-bakers are meaningfully persecuted in this country. They are afforded a quite plausible and still potentially successful opportunity to argue that facially neutral, generally applicable laws don’t apply to them, just because they say so.

              1. That’s not true at all. They’re being prosecuted for discriminating against certain cakes. They would be happy to bake different cakes for the same customers.

                1. That’s like saying that laws against same-sex marriage don’t discriminate against LGBT people, because LGBT and straight people alike can’t get homo-married, but can get hetero-married.

                  1. Yeah, a solitary bakeshop in a state choosing not to engage in certain modes of creative expression vis-a-vis certain types of weddings is EXACTLY like sweeping laws against certain types of weddings. Well done.

                    1. Since when has “but I’m the only one doing it” been a defense to violating the law?

                2. So, if the local gay community center is having an anniversary party, and Jack the Christian baker refuses to bake cake for it, is that conceptually different from a wedding cake? Why or why not?

                  1. So, if the local gay community center is having an anniversary party

                    Did you mean an anniversary for the founding of the community center? Unclear why you would think Jack Phillips would find that remotely similar to a wedding cake for a gay couple.

                    Or did you mean an anniversary for the wedding of a gay couple? Unclear why you would think Jack Phillips would find that remotely different from a wedding cake for a gay couple.

                    1. I meant the community center having an anniversary.

                      My point is that gay marriage isn’t the issue; anti gay prejudice is. Because I very much doubt that Jack the baker would be any more inclined to bake a cake for anything else gay related either.

              2. And the plaintiff who literally said they would generate another complaint the next day if the current one were dismissed is, of course, not actually persecuting anyone or bigoted or anything.

            2. Talk about lack of perspective. Like I said, you are off the deep end.

      2. It’s probably under-represented among the general public, while being over-represented among everybody in any kind of position of power.

        Tell me how many politicians say that we should get rid of “under God” in the pledge, “In God We Trust” on our money, not have prayers before legislative meetings (that are well over 95% Christian)? Instead, we have Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis happy to sign into law a required moment of silence at the start of every public school day that can’t be less than 1 full minute. And no, he didn’t even pretend that it was supposed to just be some secular moment of quiet reflection, where religious students could choose to pray if they wanted to.

        “It’s important to be able to provide each student the ability every day to reflect and be able to pray as they see fit,” the Republican governor said before signing the bill at the Shul of Bal Harbour in Surfside, Florida. “The idea that you can just push God out of every institution and be successful, I’m sorry, our founding fathers did not believe that.”

        The whole point of founding groups like the Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Family Research Council, and the like was to wield political power. Conservative Christians have been wielding power using their religion as a lever since the Founding. The few among them that didn’t want it that way (like Jefferson and Madison), were simply outvoted, and the Establishment Clause was always watered down in practice from what the man most responsible for the words of the 1st Amendment wanted it to be.

        Believing that “secularists” are the ones with the power in this country is a convenient fiction for conservative Christians to claim victimhood, but it is such huge gaslighting to make that claim, that calling it gaslighting is probably not strong enough language to describe it.

        1. As opposed to what? Government insinuating itself into another area religion handled for millenia, bringing its religion-stripping facet into it?

          By this argument, the military shouldn’t be bringing clergy along to battles. If a soldier dies and can’t get last rites, or dies with sin due to a state of not absolution for lack of a weekly service, that’s their problem. Government can’t promote religion.

          And I defend not religion here, but attack the equally poisonous religion-like memeplexes of politics.

          Bring ’em all down instead of facetiously pretending they are different entities.

          1. By this argument [what argument are you referring to? It isn’t clear to me what you think I said that what you wrote next would be disallowed], the military shouldn’t be bringing clergy along to battles. If a soldier dies and can’t get last rites, or dies with sin due to a state of not absolution for lack of a weekly service, that’s their problem. Government can’t promote religion.

            The military having chaplains that can travel with armed forces when they deploy far from home and the priests, pastors, rabbi, or imams that they would rely on at home is a reasonable accommodation for individual soldiers. That is, as long as the chaplains are of varied faiths themselves, and are able and willing to tend to whatever religious services a pluralistic body of soldiers might need. If all of the chaplains were Protestant Christians, for instance, then that wouldn’t work. Neither would it work if chaplains tried to proselytize service members, or otherwise try and influence their beliefs. It probably would be better for government to just stay out of it entirely, since it is likely difficult to be pluralistic enough and to maintain appropriate boundaries. But the mental well-being of servicemen away from our shores that do want a religious figure to serve them is enough of an interest to allow that.

            But within civilian life, there is no reason for the government to ever use taxpayer funds to support religious ministry.

            1. There will be prayer in schools as long as there is algebra. The only issue is government prayer.

              1. The only issue is government prayer.

                Exactly. The new Florida “moment of silence” mandate is not about the freedom of students to pray. They always could. They wanted this because they want a set time for the school to say “now it is time for everyone to pray” but without saying it out loud. They just think that if the law doesn’t require prayer, that students will get the message that they are supposed to anyway. Not to mention that for all of their fears and rhetoric that public school teachers will “indoctrinate” students in Critical Race Theory or Evolution or Climate Change or whatever, they will actually turn a blind eye toward, if not actually defend, teachers that push their Christianity on students.

      3. “Those ignorant peasants! Fie on them!”

  6. Concerns about diversity from an enthusiastic contributor to a (remarkably White, strikingly male) blog — which is about as diverse as the (White, male) Senate Republican caucus, the (White, male) collection of Trump-Republican judicial nominees, the (White, male House Republican caucus), the (White, male) Republican governors caucus, the (White, male) Federalist Society, etc. — are always a treat.

    1. Sorry, Artie. Racism and all other -sims are mostly true mostly of the time. Woke is denial of reality. You are a denier. Your sole validation is at the point of a gun. The facts abandoned the Left 100 years ago.

    2. …the (White, male) collection of Trump-Republican judicial nominees…

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being white and/or male, but it so happens that of President Trump’s three Supreme Court nominees, one was female. You’re not just a bigot but a misinformed (lying?) one.

      1. Hey! Don’t forget that there is one Black male Republican Senator! That even makes him a full 1/3 of the Black Caucus in the Senate! And they have eight women among their 50 Senators (also exactly 1/3 of the females in the Senate) and TWO Hispanics! SEE!! Diversity!

        You are right – the Rev. is a lying bigot for trying to say that the Republican Party is 100% white male. The Republican Senate Caucus, at least, is only 84% male and 94% White!

        Well, he didn’t actually say that Republicans are 100% white, but he implied it! Even though he referred to the Volokh Conspiracy as “remarkably White” and “strikingly male”, rather than claiming that it was 100% white and male, he didn’t add those adverbs when he described Trump nominees and Republicans. I mean, some people might easily understand that he was just being more brief than before, but wanting to be brief shouldn’t be an excuse. That is because someone could disingenuously claim that he was wrong or lying about Trump nominees, the Republican Senate Caucus, Republican Governors of states, and the Federalist Society being 100% white and male if he wasn’t careful to be absolutely clear. I mean, it would be unlikely that someone would accidentally misinterpret what he wrote that way, but you never know when someone might want to pick a fight and claim that he was saying something that he wasn’t because they wanted to distract from the overall accuracy of his point that Republican politicians and other conservative political institutions are disproportionately white and male. I mean, they do let some women and minorities in!

  7. I’m not sure about America being a Christian nation (depends on how you define “nation” and “is”), but I looked up the Freedom From Religion Foundation and here is what they say:

    “What is FFRF’s Purpose?

    “The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion.

    “In modern times, the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women’s right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery.

    “The Freedom From Religion Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church. As FFRF’s principal founder Anne Gaylor noted, “To be free from religion is an advantage for individuals; it is a necessity for government.”

    “What is FFRF’s purpose?

    “The purposes of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

    “Incorporated in 1978 in Wisconsin, FFRF is the nation’s largest freethought association with more than 30,000 freethinkers: atheists, agnostics and skeptics of any pedigree. FFRF is a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational organization under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3). All dues and contributions are deductible for income tax purposes.”

    1. Carl Sagan once said, “Humans believe in 2000 gods. Some of us just believe in one fewer than you do.”

      Join me, and believe in two fewer, the addition to be an atheist in the idea detailed control of life is justified if it’s for The People instead of a god, and that having to get on bended knee for permission to open a business, hey a kickback would be nice, that, curiously, always seems to go along with it.

      1. Should I be a Nietzschean atheist, a Marxist atheist, a Randian atheist, a Fourierist atheist, etc?

        So many choices…

  8. The problem with his approach is that arguments are sharpened by having to confront people who don’t agree with them. Arguments that won’t confront the opposition are hothouse arguments, that wilt as soon as they hit the real world.

    But, as I said above, this won’t be the first, “People who disagree can’t participate!” symposium the eponymous Professor Bogus has taken part in. It’s probably the only format he’s really comfortable with.

    1. Exactly – also you tend to attract a much wider audience of people who might be persuadable to your viewpoints if they get to see them presented in a robust exchange of ideas (e.g. a debate).

      1. People who are confident their ideas persuade think like that. People who know their arguments are losers don’t.

        After 30 years of progress in, for instance, concealed carry reform, which sort of person do you think the notorious Carl T. Bogus would be at this point?

    2. Arguments that won’t confront the opposition are hothouse arguments

      Radiolab on NPR had a debate this weekend, between a first amendment guy who would have been right at home here, or in the ACLU of the 1970s. The other guy was in favor of censoring harrassment and “dangerous” speech, trying to extend it beyond exhortation to imminent lawless action. He refused to address the opposition’s points about the immediate misuse by actual politicians by giving them the power to define truth or dangerousness.

      All this did was confirm my newly-formulated theory from a few months back that bringing up “the marketplace of ideas” justification for free speech at this moment in time was not about buttressing it, or reminding people why it is so important, but to introduce an attack vector to greatly weaken or outright destroy it. “Some ideas are not worthy of protection (and government gets to decide!)”

      So again, I pick up an even larger mallet and hit the drum harder: the value in the First Amendment is not really the marketplace of ideas. It is in denying dictators their single best tool in their golf bag of tricks: censorship.

      1. I would go further; it’s not merely 1A that’s vital for this society, but a comprehension of the importance of the value of freedom of expression. Of fostering a climate that isn’t rife with sophism, lies, and abuses alone, but willingness to debate instead of threaten and insult. And, a society that grasps the difference between the importance of being able to express one’s thoughts and not confusing those thoughts for being important. As an aside, this commentariat has devolved greatly over the years, I can say. This isn’t a reference to you, but I suspect you understand what I mean and to whom I refer.

  9. There was a day and age where an academic debate could be had and an honest discussion of varying views conducted. Maybe even the slim possibility that there were minds to be convinced in the audience and the slight hope of the participant their contribution could have helped shape third party opinion.

    Those days are long gone. I avoid giving credibility to anything on the other side by “balancing” out their planned propaganda. You would be wise to avoid such panels in the future as to not be the unwitting useful idiot they were looking to recruit.

    1. I’m not sure that’s true. Try being a Marxist professor during the McCarthy era. Or a racial egalitarian at the University of Mississippi in the 1950s.

      In point of fact, there have always been viewpoints that weren’t acceptable. The only thing that has changed is which specific viewpoints they are.

  10. Only self appointed legal professionals suggest that law can exist without context. The clowns who think that the court is the moral compass of a nation, hilarious trope. What is a commonwealth without common belief. Next the judge will make rulings on the basis of HUMAN DECENCY….oi vey, what charlatans hold law licenses.

    1. Are you saying that a commonwealth can’t exist unless everyone holds the same faith? I disagree. We can all hold common beliefs regarding observable facts, like the sun rising tomorrow. Basic qualities of our existence on this planet are all that’s needed to form a cohesive society. If someone thinks their faith should be followed by others, then they should let it vie for attention in the marketplace of ideas.

  11. Suppose the topic were “America is a Racist Nation.” Imagine a symposium sponsered by an organization calling itself the “Freedom from Racism Foundation” that made no effort to recruit anyone supporting the proposition, on grounds that support is overrepresented in society. Accordingly, everyone at the symposium claims that America is absolutely not in any way a racist nation.

    Would you consider the organization aptly named? If such a symposium were coordinated by a Professor Bogus, would it be fair to call it a Bogus Symposium?

    In general, is an organization that out-and-out denies the existence of the thing it claims to be seeking freedom from really seeking freedom from that thing? Or maybe something else?

    1. They don’t deny the existence of organized religion. Isn’t that what they are “seeking freedom from,” at least in terms of being against religious foundation? Perhaps I’m misunderstanding your last point.

      1. Suppose in the hypothetical the speakers didn’t deny that racism existed, but they DID deny the proposition that “America is a racist nation.” They say that critical race theory, the 1619 project, and other claims that racism is somehow so systematic or pervasive as to be part of what America is are complete hokum, total nonsense.

        Would people who sponsored a symposium all of whose speakers argued that America is not a racist nation and anyone who says it is is phooey, really be seeking freedom from racism?

        I don’t see how the hypothetical is off mark. If America is NOT a Christian nation, why worry about things like religious exemptions and such? If it’s just a tiny minority not important enough to affect the national character, surely giving it what it wants won’t have much affect on anyone else. If freedom from religion is already in our hands, there’s no need to do anything to get it.

        1. America can be a secular nation with a majority of Christians.

          Render unto Caesar and all that.

        2. I don’t see how the hypothetical is off mark. If America is NOT a Christian nation, why worry about things like religious exemptions and such? If it’s just a tiny minority not important enough to affect the national character, surely giving it what it wants won’t have much affect on anyone else. If freedom from religion is already in our hands, there’s no need to do anything to get it.

          Religious exemptions claims are not being made or granted equally for all, are they? Remember how conservative justices on the Supreme Court were supposed to be “in the mold of [the late Justice Antonin] Scalia”? It was Scalia that authored the majority opinion in Smith that some of those current Justices that were supposed to be in his mold want to overrule. (Barrett had clerked for Scalia, so maybe that explains some of her reluctance to do so.) Of course, the men seeking the exemption in that case were not Christian (at least, certainly not a mainstream Christian denomination, but they were members of the Native American Church, which fuses traditional Native American beliefs with some Christian beliefs). They also were seeking an exemption for their use of peyote in religious rituals.

          Basically, I see no reason to think that religious conservatives, even judges, would actually extend exemptions in a truly neutral fashion, rather than look to give extra privileges to Christian beliefs. With essentially every Free Exercise or Establishment Clause case that gets attention in the right-leaning media being about poor, persecuted Christians in this country with its 70% Christian majority, that certainly seems to be the way this goes.

          1. But if Anerica is not in any sense a Christian nation, why is there any reason to think Supreme Court Justices would do something like that?

            It seems to me that if you are going ro argue that such an outcome is possible, then you have to be willing to believe that pro-Christian ideological considerations have some chance of dominating the Supreme Court.

            But if Christianity isn’t a pervasive and systematic force in the United States – if this is not in any sense a Christian nation – what possible reason might there to believe this might be the case?

            Just as, if you truly believe America isn’t a racist nation, it follows that there’s no need to do anything to address the possible influence of racism, if tou truly believe American isn’t a Christian nation, you similarly think that “critical religion theory” is bogus. Christianity just isn’t a major influence in the country, and who cares if they get a few bones.

          2. Let me give an example. When Yoder came out, nobody claimed America was becoming an Amish nation. Nobody was out shouting that if people didn’t act, flocks of evil-smelling Amish would be coming out of people’s lavatories impinging on their personal freedom. Nobody claimed that the Supreme Court would make unfair pro-Amish decisions. Nobody really cared. And the reason bobody really cared is thsf nobody thought this was in any way an Amish nation – nobody thought the Amish had any important or significant influence on, let alone control over, government institutions or national life.

            It seems to me that if you think the Supreme Court is likely to make unfair pro-X decisions, then you are saying you think X has major influence on and perhaps control over government institutions and aspects of national life. That seems to me to be the definition of what “America is an X” nation is. That’s certainly what the Freedom from Racism people say when they claim America is a racist nation.

            1. It seems to me that if you think the Supreme Court is likely to make unfair pro-X decisions, then you are saying you think X has major influence on and perhaps control over government institutions and aspects of national life. That seems to me to be the definition of what “America is an X” nation is. That’s certainly what the Freedom from Racism people say when they claim America is a racist nation.

              No, this isn’t the way it works. You are making this out as a false dichotomy. Just because the United States is not actually a “Christian nation” in the way that Christian nationalists want it to be, that does not mean that such thinking has no power or influence.

              Look, let me be clear. Certain parts of the Christian right want their beliefs and culture to be and remain dominant in this country. They see things like increasing support for LGBTQ+ rights and decreasing church attendance and religiosity as a threat to their place at the top of American culture. They will use the power of government in any way that they can get away with to help stop what they see as a slide toward Sodom and Gomorrah.

              It shows up when creationists want their beliefs inserted into public school science classrooms and when politicians pass laws like they did in Florida this session to mandate that all public schools have a full 1-minute moment of silence with the governor stating explicitly that it is wrong to try and remove God from public life as he signed that law.

              Just like America does not have to be a “racist country” for there to be racism in America, it does not have to be a “Christian nation” for Christian nationalists to have excessive power and influence over government policies. People in positions of authority that are Christian and have sympathies with that kind of thinking can just have unconscious biases that influence their decisions even when they wouldn’t go that far explicitly themselves.

  12. Is job of a law professor or law symposium to seek out the truth, or to advocate for a cause? Professors do one, lawyers do the other, I’m not sure law professors have ever figured themselves out.

  13. While I agree the FFRF had a dog and pony show, there are some bat shirt crazy folks in the comments.

    1. Just another day at the Volokh Conspiracy . . . and for the current Republican-conservative coalition.

  14. I look forward to your resignation from this echo chamber, then, Josh.

  15. I can count on two hands the number of law professors who would argue in public that America is a Christian nation, whatever that even means.

    I am not buying that Josh Blackman really doesn’t know what some religious conservatives mean when they call America a “Christian nation”. Christian nationalism is not something hidden in the fringes. It is a significant part of the Christian conservative worldview, even if they won’t use that term for themselves. It is not difficult to find discussions and criticism about it, and not just among nonbelievers, like the FFRF.

    People with that Christian nationalist worldview are not going to support a truly pluralistic society in America. They want their religion to be dominant and have a privileged place, just like it did for most of the history of the country. People have had to fight tooth and nail in the courts when Christian majorities abused that privilege with the power of government.

    Jefferson and Madison believed in a degree of separation between church and state that most others of the founding generation didn’t want. That is why the Establishment Clause has always been viewed as weaker than they called for it to be. (James Madison wrote, after his presidency, that Congress should not have chaplains paid by taxes, for instance. He saw this as a violation of the Establishment Clause.) Most conservative jurists would read it as being all but toothless, with Justice Thomas going the furthest. He wrote in his concurrence for American Legion (2019):

    The Establishment Clause states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The text and history of this Clause suggest that it should not be incorporated against the States.

    Thomas would no doubt have joined Scalia’s dissent in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) and allowed Louisiana to mandate the teaching of Biblical creation if a biology class taught the theory of evolution.

  16. I’m struggling to get very worked up about this. If people want to have a symposium to discuss, say, RELIGION, but they want to confine the debate to those who do have some kind of religion, then, yes, it’s going to be a narrower debate than if they had some atheists and agnostics along.

    But then maybe the widest possible debate isn’t always what you want to be aiming for – maybe you can drill down deeper with a narrower debate, in which you don’t have to justify a set of common assumptions to sceptics, and can move directly on to discussing what follows from them.

    I’m not entirely convinced that the “viewpoint—that America should not consider itself a Christian nation—is underrepresented in the current debate” is an accurate statement of reality, but let us not quibble.

  17. There are probably very few people who would argue that America is a Christian nation. There are far more, and they are far more worrisome, who would argue that America ought to be a Christian nation.

    1. The US is comprised of a dwindling Christian majority. The majority faith doesn’t magically make this secular nation Christian.

  18. Also, I will point out the conclusion reached by George Orwell, the atheist socialist: That it was primarily England’s Christian character, Christian values deeply embedded in its culture even after dogmatic belief had started to fade, that kept its conservatives from becoming Fascist and its socialists from becoming Stalinists.

    This was a view widely shared in the generation coming out of WWII. It made religion respectable among liberals, even those who didn’t believe in it themselves, for generations afterwards.

    1. So are you saying that our conservatives are becoming Fascists because they’re less religious? As someone (apparently not Sinclair Lewis) once said…

      “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

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