Weekly Round-Up #11: Wrap Up Round-Up, I Wrote a Thing Edition

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.


Weekly Round-Up #10: Nearing the End, Searching for Answers

Hello again. As I sit writing this, we here at Utica College have entered our final week of classes. As we get closer to the end of the semester, and for some of our bloggers, the end of their time in college, we see from these posts (written for last week) that we are still looking for answers to many of the topics we have been exploring all semester. In large part, as the student bloggers acknowledge, that is because constitutional law is an ever on-going process of argumentation and interpretation. This is something they will get to experience firsthand next week when they engage in a moot court during their final exam period. But, before we can get there, we need to cover last week’s posts, and eventually the posts written for this week. So, on with the posts!

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Someone is bound to get this one, right? Too esoteric? I mean, what’s the point of teaching at a liberal arts school if you cannot make incredibly niche, bizarre references? 

Let’s start our review of the posts by looking of a pair of posts on the right to privacy as it applies to access to abortion, which Erin and Grace both address in their posts. Erin writes about the right to privacy in the context of abortion rights. She discusses what it means for abortion to be considered a matter of privacy, rather than equal protection. From here, she articles an argument for why abortion should be considered an issue of equal protection, and thus covered under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, rather than an issue of the right to privacy. Similarly, Grace writes in her blog about a woman’s right to choose to obtain an abortion. She discusses the importance of this right for women’s rights more generally. She also discusses the precarious position this right is in given that it is linked to the right to privacy, which is not clearly articulated in the U.S. Constitution.

While looking more broadly than just the right to a safe, legal abortion, Taylor also addresses women’s rights, including their reproductive rights, in her post. Taylor criticizes the Trump-led efforts to take funding away from Planned Parenthood. She talks about how the stated goals are not related to the actions that are being taken, as well as addresses the costs of removing funding for Planned Parenthood. As Taylor explains, there is much more at stake than merely “defunding” abortions (which, thanks to the Hyde Amendment, have not been federally funded since 1976.

While Erin, Grace, and Taylor all discuss areas where women’s rights appear to be shrinking, Adrian looks at attempts (thus far unsuccessful) to expand rights for LGBT individuals. Adrian’s post addresses recent attempts in Hawaii to extend insurance coverage for in vitro fertilization and surrogacy to LGBT individuals. Hawaii currently requires insurance carriers to cover in vitro fertilization for married heterosexual couples. Adrian explains how efforts have been made in Hawaii to include LGBT individuals as well, and the challenges these changes face.

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Maybe this one? Better?

Moving on from here into a different direction, Efrain and Selma O. offer two very different looks at places where free speech rights (potentially) are weighed against security concerns. Efrain’s blog for last week was about the case Defense Distributed v. United States Department of State (2016). This case addresses whether the files for 3D printing handguns are protected as free speech, or subject to federal regulations on the basis of foreign policy and national security interests. Efrain walks through the issues in this case, discusses the court’s ruling, and explains why he thinks the federal district court ultimately made the right decision. Selma takes a more historical look as she discusses the Pentagon Papers in relation to free speech in the United States. She discusses the Pentagon Papers, and the related case of New York Times v. United States, in light of both freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Dan takes a bigger picture look at Trump’s travel ban as he steps back and examines his position on the ban. He discusses his opinion now and how blogging about this topic has shaped that opinion. He also looks at levels of support for the ban in the United States.

Finally, I wrap up this round-up with a look at two posts on religion that, arguably, ask different versions of the same question: what is covered by the religion clauses? Paul asks this question fairly directly, while Kaitlyn gets to the question through a current Supreme Court case. Paul, in his post, addresses one of the questions central to religion clause jurisprudence: what exactly is covered by the Establishment Clause. Paul steps back from specific cases and controversies to address, more broadly, the Establishment Clause and the Court’s mixed jurisprudence around this issue. He does look briefly at Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. (2007), but largely as a missed opportunity as the Court decided FFRF did not have standing, and thus did not rule on the merits—and thus the Establishment Clause—in the case. Kaitlyn’s post for last week was written in anticipation of Justice Gorsuch’s first oral arguments, which also includes a case about religious liberty. Kaitlyn discusses the now-argued Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley. She sets up the case, and offers her own analysis on the conflict in the case. Also, while not a part of her post, I will add that this case is one of two that the students will be arguing for a moot court simulation in our class (the other case being Packingham v. North Carolina).

One more week of classes (and a moot court simulation), and one more blog post.


Weekly Round-Up #9: Changing Rules and a New Justice

With a year-long vacancy on the Supreme Court finally filled through a stunning display of “I’m not listening,” theft, obstruction, and rules changes it sure is an interesting time to be studying the Court. Also, with an executive branch that has only a passing understanding or appreciation of the US Constitution, it is an interesting time to be studying civil liberties in the United States. Many of these current developments come up in the students’ posts for this week.

Elise, Kaitlyn, and Paul all wrote posts about the new Supreme Court justice. Elise take a more general perspective, while Kaitlyn and Paul look specifically at the implications for religious rights of the newly sworn-in justice. Elise writes about the now-fully-staffed Supreme Court. With the confirmation and swearing in of Garland Gorsuch, the Court is back to nine. Elise briefly discusses the process by which Garland Gorsuch ended up on the Court. She also provides a look forward towards what we might expect with the new justice on the Court.

Kaitlyn also talks about Garland’s Gorsuch’s arrival at the Supreme Court. Kaitlyn puts this in terms of the theme of her blog: religious liberties. Kaitlyn discusses what Garland’s Gorsuch’s being on the court means for religious liberty. Paul, who also has been blogging about religion and the law, adds to the posts about Garland Gorsuch, also looking at religious liberties. Paul looks at how the new justice compares to his predecessor (Scalia), as well as his stances on religious freedom issues. Included in this analysis is a discussion of how Gorsuch previously ruled on Hobby Lobby while on the 10th Circuit, a case Paul has previously addressed in a different post.

Like Paul, Erin and Dan connect their new posts to previous posts they have written. Erin’s post this week picks up where she left off her previous post on privacy in a digital age. In this post Erin looks at the recent efforts to change rules to allow internet service providers to sell customer data. She explains how the bill reverses Obama-era policies, and what it means for all of us if Trump signs it. Dan decides to mix things up a bit in his post this week, and instead of criticizing the ban focuses on the arguments in favor of it. He looks at the arguments being used by the states that support the ban, as well as the president.

Adrian writes about recent developments at Gordon College pertaining to the College’s decision not to grant promotion to Professor DeWeese-Boyd, over the recommendation for promotion from the College’s faculty senate. It appears that the decision was made, at least in part, over DeWeese-Boyd’s criticism of Gordon College’s policy against homosexuality. Adrian explains the policy, what happened, and the response from faculty senate to the College’s decision. He also offers a thoughtful, balanced analysis of the law regarding these actions and questions of whether any illegal discrimination has occurred.

Efrain discusses State v. Loomis (2016), as Wisconsin state-level case questioning the use of COMPAS assessments in determining sentencing. As Efrain explains, COMPAS uses trade secrets to calculate recidivism rates that are used to influence sentences. However, as Efrain explains and as Loomis argued, the trade-secret nature of these assessments potentially violate due process. Read Efrain’s post for a more in-depth explanation and discussion of this topic.

Weekly Round-Up #8: Timely Posts Delivered Not-on-Time OR Still Catching Up, MPSA Edition

Hello again, dear reader. I was hoping to have this post up several days ago, but, alas, here we are. As was chronicled in the previous round-up, I was in Chicago for the Midwest Political Science Association’s annual conference (go ahead and ask me about Kennedy and dignity, I am ready to talk your ear off about it, or perhaps provide you with some light reading on the topic), which just means I have been scrambling to catch up on the work I missed while gone. Like writing this post. Which I’m doing now. Also, I have just made this round-up way more about me than it should be (whoops!). So, on with the show! The posts for this last week were, unsurprisingly, great. The student bloggers have all really found their voice, and many of them wrote this round of posts about contemporary issues regarding civil liberties in America.

Obligatory Palmer House photo; it would not be MPSA without one

Erin’s post for this round is an incredibly thoughtful, well-articulated exploration of the right to privacy in a digital age. She discusses various privacy concerns that arise from living at a time where so much of our personal information is online and susceptible to unwanted access from anywhere in the world. This is a great post, and should be read by all. This issue, in light of recent congressional developments, is only going to get more important.

Efrain also looks at privacy concerns when he writes his post about United States v. Jones (2012) a case questioning the use of GPS tracking devices, warrants, and expectations of privacy. Efrain explains Scalia’s majority opinion as well as Alito’s concurrence regarding how these opinions treat privacy and technology.

Laura writes her post about Christian cost-sharing groups for medical expenses. I found her post to be incredibly informative because I had never actually heard of these groups. If you, like me, are unfamiliar, than hopefully you will find her post as informative as I did. These groups are ACA complaint while working both with and partially outside of the standard healthcare system, all while imposing fairly strict restrictions on beneficiaries.

I still don’t think I’m fancy enough for this place

From here we move into posts that, like so much right now, relate to President Trump. In fact, we have a trio of posts that look at different topics related to Trump, politics, and civil liberties. Dan returns to the issue of President Trump’s travel ban. Having examining the legal challenges to the ban, Dan now turns to the question of the offered explanation for the ban: security. Dan discusses the way the ban is, and is not, related to notions of security. Selma J. puts some of President Trump’s attacks on the media in context of free speech and some of our founders’ ideals around speech and the press. She talks about libel, the president’s assault on the media, and protections for the media. Jordyn addresses Trump’s lack of experience in politics as it relates to his recent attempts at governing. She compares Obama and Trump, and indicates how a lack of awareness of how the government functions and how politics work are hampering Trump’s attempts to achieve his agenda.

To avoid Trump having all the fun, Taylor and Elise wrote their posts about the vice president and the secretary of education, respectively. Taylor reacts to Mike Pence’s recent comments about his refusal to ever eat alone with a woman that is not his wife. Taylor explains the many ways in which this is problematic, not least of which is the discrimination inherent in this decision. She also explains the ways in which this kind of thinking perpetuate discrimination against women and leads to fewer promotions or other career opportunities. Elise returns to discussing Betsy DeVos and school choice. Elise discusses the problems with school choice as it relates to constitutional rights to equality. She also puts the conversation in the broader context of the goals and purpose of education, especially public education.

Following from the interjection of faith into politics (OK, I might have been stretching a bit with that transition), Kaitlyn and Paul both address contemporary, ongoing issues surrounding religion and the law. Kaitlyn writes about Kentucky’s new “religious freedom bill,” which was passed in response to a public school’s choice to remove a Bible verse from a production of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Kaitlyn discusses the bill, its aims, and how it relates to current understanding and practices around religious freedom in the United States. Paul’s review of religion in American law and society has reached Hobby Lobby. Paul explains the issues that gave rise to the case, as well as the ruling in the case. He puts these developments in context of shifts in American politics and our understanding of religious freedom.

This leaves us with two incredibly important, timely reflections on broader issues of rights and social practice. Both Selma O. and Grace address what happens when we embrace free speech, especially speech that is in some way discriminatory towards other groups. Selma writes about hate speech in her post this round. She explains why hate speech is a problematic issue, legally and politically speaking, to address. Selma addresses the damage that hate speech can do, even as it is hard to specifically indicate the damage done in many cases. She also addresses the principles underlying attempts to regulate hate speech. Grace addresses how “freedom of speech” is not equal for all in a meaningful way in the United States. She addresses the harmful effects of protecting discriminatory ideas and speech, all the way up to the Court’s acceptance of hate speech as forms of protected speech (or at least striking down attempts to regulate hate speech as constitutionally problematic).

Weekly Round-Up #7: Crunch Time, Flight Time

As we slide our way into April I have officially fallen behind. So, here I am, sitting in an airport, waiting to b meoard my flight to the Midwest Political Science Association’s annual conference, and I’m frantically grading the posts for last week, knowing that I’ll be grading this week’s at some point in Chicago. The posts are great (and my paper for the conference is done), so how about we take a quick look at these great posts? Come fly with me…through posts? Or something? That one got away from me a bit…

For this round of posts Efrain writes about United States v. Nosal (Nosal II), which is a 9th Circuit case hinging on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The law makes it a crime to access certain computer systems without authorization. Efrain explains the specific details of the case, the judges’ interpretation of “authorization” and what this means moving forward.

Dan touches on what the revised travel ban means for us in the Mohawk Valley, without history of welcoming refugees. This history means we have a significant number of refugees, and tensions and fears are high. Having discussed Trump’s first travel ban, Kaitlyn now takes the opportunity to also discuss its second incarnation. She discusses both the content of the new ban, and the recent rulings against the new version of the ban.

Elise and Adrian both touch on developments pertaining to LGBT rights. Elise writes about further developments in Gavin Grimm’s case. With the Court deciding to remand rather than hear Grimm’s case, the fight is not over, although potentially stalled. The remand for reconsideration does not end the case or the chance of greater protections for transgender rights, but as Elise points out, it is a missed opportunity for the Court to acknowledge and protect basic human rights. Adrian writes about Trump’s recent appointment of Roger Severino as Director of the Office of Civil Rights. This appointment was made without announcement of fanfare, but has many members of the LGBT community and their allies worried. Adrian explains some of Severino’s track record of being anti-LGBT rights, and why this is concerning in his new position.

Grace and Selma take a broader look at speech and the First Amendment in their respective post. Grace writes about the importance of the First Amendment for many of the victories, and general activism, of the Civil Rights Movement. She explains the important of speech, assembly, and association for arguing for civil rights. She touches on a few specific cases that were victories for the Civil Rights Movement in this regard as well. Selma looks at student speech, and some of the ways in which it is more restricted than speech generally. She primarily looks at Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier in outlining the contours of student speech, while also comparing Hazelwood School District with Tinker v. Des Moines.

Erin reflects on our relatively “new” right to privacy as it relates to constitutional interpretation. She discusses different approaches to interpreting the Constitution, and what this means for the right to privacy, which itself emerges largely as a response to shifting social practices and understandings of the Constitution and America.

This time around Paul writes about the Supreme Court’s 2004 case Locke v. Davey. The case involved a challenge to a Washington State scholarship program where the funds could not be used for certain degrees in theology. Paul explains the state’s rationale, the Court’s ruling, and what this means for colleges and college student who might want to pursue theology degrees.

In keeping with the health care theme of her blog, Laura examines why the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act failed. She walks through the various challenges and problems the Republicans faced in trying to deliver on a promise they have been making for eight years, but apparently have not been working on for all that long.

Taylor is in prime form with her post this week. It turns out a lot of male politicians have recently (and just in general) said a lot of incredibly … problematic … things, and Taylor is here to take them all to task. Go. Read. Her. Post. Just go. It seems at least 52% of men certainly need to, but I’d argue we’d all be better off for reading her post.

…and it looks like I am just going to squeak out getting this post uploaded before I have to board my flight. Until next time, go check out the original posts!

Weekly Round-Up #6: Blog Audits

Hello everyone, and welcome back. As I alluded to in my last round-up, we were on Spring Break, and have now been back for one week. Our student bloggers had a bit of a break as well (I mean, come on, I’m not a total monster). For their first post back we have our blog audits. This is always a tricky one for me to write up. While my students are doing all of the real work all I need to do is briefly summarize their posts and try to entice others to go read the original posts. With the audits the challenge is a bit difference, because the posts are a bit different.

I have used a blog audit week somewhere in the middle of the semester every time that I have had students blogging. I think it is important, at least occasionally, to have students stop and reflect, and potentially engage in a bit of metacognition. That is roughly what is going on here with this assignment. For the blog audits students forego writing a regular blog post and instead review their previous posts. They are encouraged to talk about their posts, the process generally, and how they see things going as they move forwards through the semester with more posts. The idea here is to stop, take a breath, and evaluate the writing process and product.

Part of the point of the blog assignment, overall, is to have students engage in public, open discussions about the law and legal topics in a way that is accessible to a general audience. It is my thinking that stopping to think about how this is going is valuable for the learning process. And with this much-longer-than-normal opening, the stage is set and we can now move on to some brief statements about the audit posts. For full, thoughtful reflections, go read the actual posts.

Elise starts us off with a good, honest reflection on her posts and promises to revisit a few issues and return to addressing timely issue and cases. She talks about what she’s covered, and what she plans to cover.

Erin discusses her posts so far by looking at their content, their structure, and their style. She explains that she has been blogging about the nature of the right to privacy, and the levels of uncertainty that surround this right under the Trump administration. Her reflection is open and thoughtful.

Kaitlyn begins her reflection by thinking about the process of blogging itself, as well as her reservations when first informed about the blog component of the course. I am happy to share and was happy to read), that she overcame these concerns and has come to appreciate the blog assignments. She compares her posts, as well as shares which has been her favorite so far.

Paul writes about how, in reviewing his posts, he found that they follow a similar formula. He discusses the pros and cons of this approach, and how the plans to move forward. He also reflects on what he has gotten out of the blogging process so far.

Adrian starts by reflecting on why he chose the theme for his blog that he did, which is marriage equality. He writes about how this topic has morphed and expanded into GLBT+ rights more broadly. He links up his posts, and explains how he intends to change up the format a little bit moving forward in the semester.

Grace starts off her audit with a reflection on the blogging process this semester compared to when she blogged for my Constitutional Law class last semester. She talks about what is easier, and also what is more challenging, this time around. She looks at the nature of her posts so far, and how she wants the blog to go moving forward.

Selma talks about her shift in topic from free speech, generally, to radicalism and free speech more specifically. She connects her various posts together, as well as realizes part of what she is doing in her posts is wrestling with the Supreme Court’s conception of “freedom of speech.” She does this, in part, through historical parallels and analogies to shed light on current legal developments.

Taylor also compares the blogging process for this course with the process for Constitutional Law. She talks about how having lots of material posts is not always a good thing, especially when civil liberties is the main topic (and women’s rights, specifically, in Taylor’s case).

Weekly Round-Up #5: Spring Break…?

We here at Utica College find ourselves on that slow crawl towards spring break. We are, as of this writing, at the last day of classes before break, and, of course, it is 20 degrees outside (and although it did not stick, it snowed yesterday). Not much spring to that. But, you know what does have spring to it? The posts for this week! Oh my, that was forced. Just … bad. I guess I need a break too. Fortunately, the posts are much better than my weak intro and transition.

Why not just jump right in and start with President Trump? Both Daniel and Erin have posts addressing some of the president’s recent actions. Daniel writes about President Trump’s new immigration ban. He discusses the change from the previous ban to this one, before providing his own analysis of the new version. Erin takes on Trump’s accusations, issued over the weekend via Twitter (naturally), that former President Obama tapped Trump’s phones in Trump Tower pre-election. Erin discusses this unsubstantiated claim, as well as the political responses to it and some of the law around wiretaps.

This week Efrain tells us about United States v. Graham (2016), a Fourth Circuit case from last year involving what is known as the “third party doctrine.” The third party doctrine maintains that there are different privacy concerns with respect to information that people willingly disclose to third parties. The information in question in the case is location data the government obtained from two individuals’ cell phone records. Efrain explains the underlying facts of the case, as well as both rulings at the Fourth Circuit. As he indicates in this post, this case has large ramifications for personal data in an era of widespread smartphone use.

Selma’s examination of radicalism and First Amendment free speech jurisprudence continues this week with Dennis v. U.S. (1951). Selma explains the concept of the “fifth column,” the fear of foreign-influenced domestic insurgency, and how it led to the Smith Act, and ultimately the ruling against Dennis. She also explains how echoes of these ideas and arguments are discernable in current political concerns and debates.

Both Adrian and Taylor address recent news around LGBT issues in society. Adrian lets us know that Disney is at it again. Or something. By which I mean he talks about how the not-yet-released live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast is already stirring up controversy due to a “gay subplot” where LeFou questions his feelings for Gaston. Franklin Graham has publically denounced it, and at least one theater has decided not to show the film due to this subplot. Adrian looks at these decisions, and the banning of films in general, under the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Building off of her post last week about transgender, rights, Taylor addresses the issue this week from a different topic. Mack Begg’s has garnered some national attention, which is not an easy thing to do as a high school student in Texas, after winning the state wrestling championship. The reason for this attention, as Taylor explains, is that Mack is transgender male that was forced to wrestle females due to Texas’s schools requiring students to wrestle students of the sex listed on their birth certificates. Taylor discusses this instance, the multitude of problems with this approach, and with how transgender students are treated more generally.

Rounding out the posts discussed here, Paul and Kaitlyn discuss religious liberty and its outward expressions in society. Paul discusses the 2015 Supreme Court case Holt v. Hobbs in his post for this week. The case involves religious-based challenges under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) to Arkansas prison regulations that prevented inmates from being allowed to grow and maintain beards (with an exception only for documented skin conditions) for safety reasons. Gregory Holt, who was incarcerated in Arkansas, is a Muslim and wanted to grow his beard for religious reasons. Paul explains the case, the Court’s ruling, how it relates to the ruling in Hobby Lobby (2014), as well as how it relates to the current political climate regarding U.S. relations with our Muslim population.

Recently in class, as part of the cap to our study of the religion clauses, we had a broader discussion of the constitutionality of both “In God We Trust” as our national motto and “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Kaitlyn uses this discussion as a jumping off point for her blog this week, in which she takes a closer look at the issues surrounding “Under God.” She discusses Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2004), which is the closest the Court has come to ruling on the issue, as well as a Massachusetts Supreme Court case, Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District (2014), on the same issue a decade after Newdow. Kaitlyn looks at the controversy around “Under God” and its place within our society and First Amendment religion clause jurisprudence. In her post, we not only get great analysis of an ongoing constitutional question, but also a little peak into our course as well.