We have once again reached the end of another semester, and another academic year. I don’t know if it has been the state of American politics, or the rush of getting adjusted to a new institution, but, for me at least, it feels like this academic year has gone by pretty quickly. As I’m writing this, the students in this class are preparing for their moot court, which is their final exam in our course. As they prepare, let’s have a look at their final blog posts of the semester. As is always the case with my classes, the students have complete control over their blogs, so some of them might choose to continue posting, and others might not. I encourage all to check in on the blogs to see if the students keep posting.
Taylor writes about the consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood and other women’s health organizations. Attacks on women’s healthcare providers have been increasing recently. Taylor’s post serves as a depressingly-necessary reminder that these policy decisions do not exist in a vacuum and do have real world consequences for real, living, breathing human beings. Taylor also has a bonus post on the not-quite-Trump-whisperer Ivanka.
Laura, in her post, addresses the growing battle over the budget and healthcare. She discusses Trump’s various threats to limit any spending on the ACA if he does not get funding for his border wall idea. She looks at Trump’s various claims (from Twitter, of course), and addresses the factual accuracy of these claims. It seems if the goal is safety and preserving lives, funding healthcare is the easy choice, but not one that this administration is making.
For her final post, Selma returns to the topic of free speech and radical anarchist or communist groups. She looks at an often overlooked case from 1974, Communist Party of Indiana v. Whitcomb. The case involved election laws that required loyalty oaths from candidates. Selma explains how the challenge arouse, and what the Court ultimately ruled. Selma also has a bonus post on commercial speech and advertisements for prescription drugs.
Erin again addresses the right to privacy. She puts this right into the context of its alleged place within the Bill of Rights and asks a question: does the right to privacy actually exist? She approaches this quandary through recent political developments. To see where she ends, you’ll have to read her post.
Paul continues his examination of the extent of the Establishment Clause by looking at religious practices in public schools. There is a long history of both acceptable and unacceptable (both as deemed by the Court) religious practices in public schools. In trying to describe where the line is Paul discusses Zorach v. Clauson (1952). He explains the case, as well as discusses what this means more broadly for our understanding of the Establishment Clause.
Kaitlyn’s final post provides an excellent overview for her previous posts, and for the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses. She talks about the purpose of these clauses, and how they often exist in a tense relationship. She explains the conflicts that arise, and relates these back to previous discussions she has had on her blog pertaining to these issues.
Finally, I want to leave off this final round-up post with two thoughts. First, it has been interesting teaching civil liberties this semester. The students have been great and we have had wonderful discussions (more than once putting us behind schedule, but for all the best reasons). While I have taught this class numerous times, this is the first time I have done so with a great sense of uncertainty. I have written about this elsewhere, but I cannot remember a time that I have taught this class and felt like much of what I am teaching while hyper-relevant, might no longer be relevant or accurate in the very near future. With the changes and uncertainty within the current administration, and the assault on the rights of various minorities, the press, and our freedoms of speech and privacy, it is easy to get discouraged. The arc of civil rights and civil liberties is not linear or inherently progressive, but I like to believe that Dr. King was correct when he said “…the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” In the meantime, it falls to all of us to defend the rights and liberties of all, and to embrace the uncertainty as teachable moments regarding how politics and rights are not inherently progressive, and neither is time.
Secondly, and on a lighter note, I have been sharing student blog posts all semester. Sure, I write these round-ups, but I have not subjected myself to the same highlights and attention as I have the student bloggers. Thus, I will point out—without trying to take away from the quality of the student blogs—that I recently wrote a post for the Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research. In my post, I discuss Trinity Lutheran, which several of the student bloggers have also covered. I discuss the central dispute in the case, why the case is likely to be important for religious freedoms, but mostly, I talk about how this case, as do most civil rights and liberties cases, is about who we are as a nation. Who we grant rights to, whose speech we protect, whose religion we tolerate, and most importantly who we exclude from such protections, speaks volumes about who we are as a nation. We define ourselves through our contrived boarders and protections, and the decision of whether to provide state funds directly to churches for any reason—the central question in Trinity Lutheran—has wide-ranging implications for these stated considerations. After Town of Greece and Hobby Lobby, we have seen major shifts away from religious liberty for all and towards religious liberty for some, at the cost of rights (and inclusion) of others. The Court has a chance to once again address this important topic.