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Washington and Lee Law Review - Roundtables

Roundtable

by Brandon Hasbrouck

It is time for Washington and Lee University to drop both George Washington and Robert E. Lee from the University name. The predominantly White faculty at Washington and Lee recently announced that it will petition the Board of Trustees to remove Lee from the University name. This is the first time in Washington and Lee’s history that the faculty has drafted such a petition. It is worth exploring why the faculty has decided to make a collective statement on Lee now and why the faculty has not included a demand to drop Washington in their petition. The answer is simple—it is no longer acceptable, profitable, or convenient to be associated with Lee but it is for Washington. At least for now.

Roundtable

by Leah D. Williams

Since the broadcast killing of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers on May 25, all levels of government, and institutions of every kind, have scrambled with breakneck speed to confront their own ties to America’s most deeply entrenched demons: White supremacy and systematic racism. Washington and Lee has certainly not been exempt from this reckoning. A majority of its faculty and student body have already passed resolutions calling for the removal of Robert E. Lee’s name from the university. As a direct descendent of those enslaved by the school, I commend these resolutions; yet, I strongly offer that a name change may be a start, but it is not enough to reconcile the sins of the past.

Roundtable

by Carliss N. Chatman

Alabama has joined the growing number of states determined to overturn Roe v. Wade by banning abortion from conception forward. The Alabama Human Life Protection Act subjects a doctor who performs an abortion to as many as ninety-nine years in prison. The law has no exceptions for rape or incest. It redefines an “unborn child, child or person” as “[a] human being, specifically including an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability.”

When states define natural personhood with the goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, they are inadvertently creating a system with two-tiered fetal citizenship. This is because Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey create a federal floor for access to the right to choose—a rule that some ability to abort a fetus exists in the United States. If these cases are overturned, that eliminates only the federal right to abortion access. Overturning Roe would not prohibit a state from continuing to allow access. In a post-Roe world, in states like New York that ensure the right to choose through their constitutions and statutes, citizenship will begin at birth. In states that move the line to define life as beginning as early as conception, personhood and citizenship will begin as soon as a woman knows she is pregnant.

Trying to define citizenship and personhood based on the laws of each state creates some far-fetched and even ridiculous scenarios. If we follow that logic, we will tie our Constitution into a knot no court can untangle.

This Article was originally published in The Washington Post on May 19, 2019. It has been edited and updated prior to its publication in the Washington and Lee Law Review.

Roundtable

by Shaakirrah R. Sanders

I join Carliss Chatman’s call to fully consider the equal protection implications of the conception theory and raise an additional right to which a fetus may be entitled as a matter of equal protection: health care, which implicates state laws that provide civil and criminal exemptions to parents who choose religious healing instead of medical care for their children and minor dependents. The evidence of harm to children from religious healing is well documented. Yet, currently, approximately forty-three U.S. states and the District of Columbia have some type of exemption to protect religious healing parents in civil and criminal cases.

Religious healing is the belief that “prayer” or “spiritual means” rather than modern medicine can cure individuals. Criminal exemptions apply to prosecutions for murder and homicides, child abuse, child endangerment, child neglect, contributing to neglect or deprivation, criminal injury, cruelty, delinquency, failure to provide medical and surgical attention, failure to report suspected child neglect or abuse, manslaughter, nonsupport, and omission to provide for a child. Civil exemptions apply to claims for child abuse, child neglect, contributing to neglect, dependency proceedings, failure to provide medical care or adequate treatment, failure to report, maltreatment, negligence, nonsupport, and temporary or permanent termination proceedings.

Roundtable

by Helen M. Alvaré

It is pointless to approach Professor Chatman’s argument on its own terms (to wit, “tak[ing] our laws seriously,” or equal application across myriad legal categories of “full personhood” rights) because these terms are neither seriously intended nor legally comprehensible. Instead, her essay is intended to create the impression that legally protecting unborn human lives against abortion opens up a Pandora’s box of legal complications so “ridiculous” and “far-fetched” that we should rather just leave things where they are under the federal Constitution post-Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This impression, in turn, is a tool to forward Professor Chatman’s personal preference for legal abortion—which she gives away by calling legal abortion by its political name: “the right to choose.”

But her arguments, sounding in law, about the alleged chaos to flow from a law protecting unborn human lives from abortion are false on the grounds of basic legal principles concerning federal constitutional and immigration law, as well as the legal principles underlying state legislation and statutory interpretation. I will set these legal principles out below before turning to the more interesting and legally plausible matter of whether or not lawmakers should choose to take into account both the needs of pregnant women and the humanity of unborn life when crafting laws affecting both, whether the situation involves immigration, incarceration, or women’s need for financial support.

Roundtable

by Anthony Michael Kreis

Carliss Chatman’s If a Fetus Is a Person, It Should Get Child Support, Due Process and Citizenship brilliantly captures the moment America is in, where abortion rights hang in the balance as state legislators, like those in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, and elsewhere clamor to embrace fetal personhood. But, as Professor Chatman illustrates, legislators have expressed no interest in the full logical extent of this policy or the rights that should attach to a fetus if their measures ultimately become effective. The article incisively demonstrates how fetal personhood is singularly focused on ending abortion in the United States and is gaining traction notwithstanding the fact that its advocates have not reasoned through the “unintended and potentially absurd consequences” of their policy positions.

The forces laboring to suppress reproductive rights are wielding axes against Roe v. Wade and its progeny, rather than scalpels to eat away at the fringe of abortion rights as states have attempted to do for decades. And all of this comes just years after similar attempts failed with some of the most conservative statewide electorates in the United States. The recent anti-reproductive justice sledgehammers lack nuance and are not fully reasoned through, as Professor Chatman illustrates, because these initiatives are about much more than abortion—they are about the fervor to consolidate counter-majoritarian power before a rapidly closing window of opportunity ends. Legislators and activists are engaged in social engineering unmoored from any popularly embraced social movement in a contentious moment in constitutional time.

Roundtable

by Samuel W. Calhoun

This Essay argues that it’s perfectly fine for religious citizens to openly bring their faith-based values to public policy disputes. Part II demonstrates that the Founders, exemplified by Thomas Jefferson, never intended to separate religion from politics. Part III, focusing upon Abraham Lincoln’s opposition to slavery, shows that religion and politics have been continuously intermixed ever since the Founding. Part IV, emphasizing the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., argues that no other reasons justify barring faith-based arguments from the public square.

Roundtable

by Ian Huyett

This Essay responds to comments by Samuel Calhoun, Wayne Barnes, and David Smolin, made as part of a roundtable discussion on Calhoun’s symposium address Separation of Church and State: Jefferson, Lincoln, and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Show It Was Never Intended to Separate Religion from Politics. In Part I, I discuss current events, especially as they pertain to Smolin’s comments. In Part II, I answer Calhoun’s challenges to my own response. In Part III, I criticize Barnes’s response, which was diametrically different from my own. In Part IV, I draw on Smolin’s observations to discuss the path forward for Christians in the current climate.

Roundtable

by Wayne R. Barnes

This symposium has revolved around Professor Calhoun’s article, which posits that it is completely legitimate, in proposing laws and public policies, to argue for them in the public square based on overtly religious principles. In my initial response, I took issue with his argument that no reasons justify barring faith-based arguments from the public square argument. In fact, I do find reasons justifying the prohibition of “faith-based,” or Christian, arguments in the public square—and, in fact, I find such reasons within Christianity itself. This is because what is being publicly communicated in Christian political argumentation is that if citizens comply with certain laws being proposed (i.e., they behave in the legally-argued way), it will cohere with Christian principles, and thereby gain them favor with God. Or, more simply, “if I do these things, it will please God.” This “works-based” favor with God is a completely incorrect view of orthodox Christian doctrine, which subscribes to salvation by faith alone. Christian-based political argumentation runs counter to the Christian gospel, because it gets itself tangled up into law, or works, as something that can be done in order to gain greater favor with God. It is, in fact, at odds with the Gospel. Professor Calhoun, in his reply to my article, has availed himself of this opportunity to demonstrate why his views on overt Christian political advocacy have changed since first holding a position similarly to mine over twenty-five years ago, and that he now believes Christian theology poses no problem to the advocacy he promotes. His first argument is that such advocacy will be seen not as promising eternal favor with God, but merely the staving off of immediate calamity or judgment from God in this life; I question whether this is how such advocacy will be perceived, but caution that this message, too, is quite probably wrong, as well. His second argument is that laws make man conscious of sin and can indeed bring one to faith in God; I point out that the scriptures on consciousness of sin are referencing the Mosaic law handed down directly by God through Moses, not secular laws passed by secular states. His third argument is that God actually decrees good works or behavior by Christians as part of a missional plan to reach unbelievers for the faith; however, I point out that what is sought from the unbelievers is not the replication of the observed works (as is the case with decreed secular law), but rather an encouragement to come to genuine faith in God. I conclude by remaining convinced that overt Christian political argumentation, in Christian terms, is more harmful than beneficial.

Roundtable

by Samuel W. Calhoun

This Essay responds to comments by Wayne Barnes, Ian Huyett, and David Smolin on my prior Article, Separation of Church and State: Jefferson, Lincoln, and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Show It Was Never Intended to Separate Religion from Politics. Part II, although noting a few disagreements with Huyett and Smolin, principally argues that they strengthen the case for the appropriateness of religious arguments in the public square. Part III evaluates Wayne Barnes’s contention that Christian doctrine requires separating religion from politics.

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