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Inescapably Natural

From the March 2016 Print Edition

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes gave voice to the “modern” project in law: It would be a gain, he said, “if every word of moral significance could be banished from the law altogether, and other words adopted which should convey legal ideas uncolored by anything outside the law.” The law would . . . . Continue Reading »

The Jujitsu of Same-Sex Marriage

From Web Exclusives

There has been no want of “writing on the wall” about the upcoming cases on marriage. Justice Clarence Thomas could not help but remark on the point that a majority of his colleagues had already, and gracelessly, signaled their “intended resolution of that question.” And yet, writers and lawyers on both sides continue to expend their genius in writing briefs for the Court, clinging to the possibility that the words they set down may yet tip the balance. Continue Reading »

Justice Alito and Eight Dissenters: The Court Backs Into Relativism

From Web Exclusives

Our friends at the Wall Street Journal have just celebrated the decision of the Supreme Court this past week for vindicating “Free speech for Jerks”: The Rev. Fred Phelps and his merry band have drawn the attention of the media as they have gone about staging demonstrations at funerals, and using those occasions as platforms for denouncing, in raw terms, homosexuals, the Catholic Church, the military, and American interventions abroad… . Continue Reading »

One of the Two Philosophers Responds

From Web Exclusives

I came to discover only late that, thanks to the exertions of Micah Watson in his “A Tale of Two Philosophers,” published here last Friday, the readers of First Things were given an account of this interesting exchange I had with my young friend, Matthew O’Brien, taking up the vocation of philosophy. What seemed to rage, though, in the comments attached to the piece were rather emphatic comments, some in criticism and some in support, by people who evidently had no idea of what I had actually said in those pieces, written in that exchange with O’Brien… . Continue Reading »

Pastor Jones and The Law as it Used to Be

From Web Exclusives

That dramatic event in prospect, the burning of Korans by Pastor Terry Jones and his merry band, became far larger as a story than it could ever have been as a real happening. That pseudo-event has now been canceled. But it is still worth reflecting on, because it reminded us of the rather unlovely shaping of the law, by conservative as well as liberal judges, over the past forty years… . Continue Reading »

Mr. Justice Breyer Writes a Dissenting Opinion

From Web Exclusives

On June 28, the Supreme Court released the decisions that finished the business of the year. Notable among them was the judgment handed down in McDonald v. Chicago on the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. Just two years earlier a slim majority of the Court affirmed for the first time that the plain words of the Amendment meant, in fact, what layers of long articles in the law reviews could not quite explain away… . Continue Reading »

Vast Dangers—Confirmed

From Web Exclusives

The Supreme Court convened on Monday in its final session of the term and released its judgments on a number of cases that have drawn deep interest”and stirred high anxiety. One of the judgments was the case of the Christian Legal Society at the Hastings Law School in California (Christian Legal Society v. Martinez). I wrote on this case in our issue of June/July (“Vast Dangers in a Small Place”), and I regret to report that the outcome turned out to be quite as grievous as the one I anticipated in that piece… . Continue Reading »