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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Stanford's (interesting and important) religious-liberty clinic

Brian Leiter comments, here, on a piece that ran in the New York Times a while back about Stanford's new religious-liberty clinic.  While I disagree with Brian regarding his characterization of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty's and the Templeton Foundation's support for the clinic as "dubious" or "right wing," and also disagree with his view that our practice of (sometimes) accommodating religious believers through exemptions from otherwise generally applicable laws is immoral, I think he is quite right to push back hard on the idea that clinic is justified as some kind of special favor to conservatives, or Republicans, or whatever.  Brian writes:

Most surprising of all is how Lawrence Marshall, director of clinical legal education at Stanford, describes it:

"The 47 percent of the people who voted for Mitt Romney deserve a curriculum as well,” said Lawrence C. Marshall, the associate dean for clinical legal education at Stanford Law School. “My mission has been to make clinical education as central to legal education as it is to medical education. Just as we are concerned about diversity in gender, race and ethnicity, we ought to be committed to ideological diversity.”

So the academic rationale for this clinic is that Romney voters need a law school clinic, on the bizarre assumption, I guess, that the only people seeking religiously based exemptions from laws are Republicans.

Yes, Prof. Marshall is right to remind those who profess commitments to diversity that ideological diversity matters too.  But, it is wrong -- it is not fair to the clinic's faculty, students, supporters, and clients -- to frame and defend it as a consolation prize to the "47 percent who voted for Mitt Romney."  Many (I hope!) among that 47 percent are happily to engage in experiential learning that involves service to the poor and to immigrants, say, just as (I hope!) many among those who voted for President Obama see the importance of (sometimes) accommodating religious minorities who are burdened by duly enacted generally applicable laws.

Posted by Rick Garnett on November 6, 2013 at 10:13 AM in Rick Garnett | Permalink


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"traditional clients of law school clinics"

Maybe law schools should broaden their horizons.

Posted by: john | Nov 7, 2013 8:56:29 AM

I think there is that implicit assumption that ideologically conservative students are not interested in representing the traditional clients of law school clinics - i.e. the indigent, poor, immigrants, LGBT individuals, tenants, etc. I have seen conservative students say so explicitly, that they don't want to represent "those people". And why wouldn't this be the case? Most of these groups have explicitly been targeted as "takers" by current conservative politicians. It may be that setting up this sort of clinic is the only way the school can encourage conservative students to participate in any sort of clinic at all.

Posted by: anon | Nov 7, 2013 1:42:49 AM

Here come the religion-haters.

Posted by: george | Nov 6, 2013 6:50:14 PM

It does seem that the most widely used definition of 'religious freedom' is that of those with power being able to do as they please.

Posted by: Barry | Nov 6, 2013 2:33:26 PM

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