Faith and Democracy

What is the role of faith in our democracy? For starters, freedom of religion is the first right enshrined in the First Amendment. While amendments are not listed in order of importance, it’s hard not to read something into that drafting choice. Yet constitutional meanings frequently play hide-and-go-seek with text. This is especially the case for religion, which is never defined in the Constitution.[1]

Maybe the Founders’ generation assumed the meaning was self-evident. I would hope, however, that they knew there is little that is obvious or uncontested in religion. The etymology of the word itself suggests how difficult it is to define.[2] Religion comes from the Latin term religio.[3] The Latin phrase itself likely came from the root ligare, to bind. Joined with the prefix re-, religion is the process of “binding together again.”

The question is: what does religion bind together? Some believe it bound an individual to the discipline of moral discernment. It referred to epistemic responsibility, the responsibility to properly know what you know. A related but distinct interpretation was that it referred to the oaths taken by members of cults or religious orders. It emphasized the practical, ritual, and ecclesial dimensions of religious life. Over time, as religion started to assume more individualistic and mystical associations, the root was understood as referring to the re-connection between the human and the divine.

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BC Law Student Groups Call for Impeachment of President Trump

Many BC Law students were outraged by the violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol. A number of student groups joined together to issue the following call to action to our elected representatives. It is presented here as a guest post.


On behalf of the Boston College Law Democrats, we respectfully ask Congress to bring articles of impeachment against President Trump at the next meeting of the House of Representatives. President Trump’s continuous undermining of the democratic process culminated today in acts of violence and a seditious occupation of the United States Capitol. The President’s inaction and implicit encouragement amount to high crimes against the Constitution. The evidence is clear that the President is not capable of upholding his oath of office, and thus should be impeached and removed from office.

Over the past four years, President Trump has repeatedly and clearly demonstrated that he is incapable of leading our nation. He has threatened our national security, the stability of our democracy and the fundamental principles of our Constitution. Instead of uniting this country, he has fanned the flames of discord. The violent insurrection on the sixth of January, 2021 was a direct result of his actions and he must be held accountable. While protesters stormed the steps of the Capitol building to prevent the peaceful transition of power, the President did not act. Instead, he incited chaos and relished in an attempt to undermine the institutions of our democratic process. As a direct result of President Trump’s incitement, the lives of duly elected members of Congress and hundreds of civilians were unnecessarily put at risk. The United States of America should no longer be forced to endure this existential threat to our democracy.

The President must not be allowed to subvert democracy with impunity. Congress must act to protect our institutions of government and ensure that President Trump will not be able to undermine them again. The President has violated his oath of office and continues to pose a threat to our democracy.

For the reasons above, we respectfully urge Congress to act.

– Boston College Law School Democrats

Cosigned by:

The Boston College Law School American Constitution Society

The Boston College Law School Latin American Law Students Association

The Boston College Undergraduate Democrats

The Boston College Law National Lawyers Guild

The Boston College Law School If/When/How Chapter

The Boston College Lambda Chapter

The Boston College Public Interest Law Foundation

Related content: BC Law professor and American Constitution Society chapter advisor Kent Greenfield drafts a letter calling for Trump’s removal from office. The letter was signed by more than 1,000 legal and constitutional scholars.

No, This Is Exactly Our America

Yesterday was nothing short of horrifying, but unfortunately, I can’t say that I’m surprised. This act of domestic terrorism was not unexpected. It was the result of one of the most divisive American presidencies of all time; it was but a likely consequence after months of repeated baseless allegations of election fraud. 

That is why I am sick of the “this is not our America” rhetoric. Because this is exactly our America right now, and we best believe it. The “this isn’t our America” rhetoric lets us think that what happened yesterday was unpredictable. It allows us to neglect that the riots stemmed from a system historically built upon and contemporarily sustained by white supremacy. If we begin to believe what happened yesterday was an anomaly, it lets us shirk away from accepting that the root of the problem is deeper than the current presidency: it is an entire system that is in dire need of reform.

Screenshot of performer, author, and storyteller, Joel Leon’s Tweet/Instagram post.

 

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Court Reform: Now is the Time

We are witnessing a critical moment in our nation’s history. Over the past few months, we have found ourselves looking inward at the traditional pillars of society, re-evaluating their fairness and justness.

A new organization, the BC Law Chapter of the People’s Parity Project, aims to evaluate and disable injustices within the legal community from the inside out. Writing a guest post today are organization leaders Daniel McLaughlin and Will Petrone, discussing court reform and the organization in general. If you are interested in getting involved with the BC chapter of the People’s Parity Project, contact bcparity@gmail.com.


Before we came to law school, many of us probably thought that the law and the legal system were inherently fair, and judges and justices were non-political. But as law students, we have some insight into the system, and as we’ve progressed through our law school careers, many of us have been surprised to see that judges are human. And importantly, the judiciary is not as insulated from politics and biases as we had once thought. These days, the Court is clearly politicized, and right now in particular, it is dominating the news cycle. Although most Americans think that the ​next president​ should fill the seat, Senate Republicans, representing less than half of the U.S. population, have confirmed Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Conservative justices now have a 6-3 majority, and are posed to threaten a woman’s right to choose, the Affordable Care Act, and so much more. 

Fortunately, law school’s peek behind the curtain allows us a sliver of hope. Court reform is possible, and it would make sure that the death of one justice does not pose such a drastic threat to civil rights, our environment, and health care for all. It would also help to make sure that courts are not able to block the ​progress​ the majority of this country believes is necessary and wants to see. With the election so close at hand, it’s all the more important to advocate for these reforms to the candidates who seek to secure our votes, and channel our frustrations with the current system into momentum for change. 

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What Do Conservatives Believe?

In the early days of the pandemic, I read a tweet suggesting that public health authorities seeking to overcome conservative skepticism about the virus should heed the lessons of Cultural Cognition. Cultural cognition is a theory, coming out of Yale Law School, that perception of factual issues is shaped by normative commitments. In other words, our moral beliefs shape how we understand facts.

Around the same time I read that tweet, a conservative friend warned me about various Governors’ lock down orders and local officials’ enforcement of social distancing measures. He said that once government assumes a new power, it is unlikely to give it up. It seemed absurd to me to imagine governors and state health officials as crypto-fascists eager to control citizen’s lives. I have, however, ranted at and to my friends and family about federal government surveillance powers using the exact same argument.

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The Power of Visibility: A Conversation with Rosie Rios

I am delighted to host a guest post from the brilliant and fabulous Maria Benvenuto. Maria is a 2L from Massapequa, NY. At BC Law, she serves as the Vice President of the Woman’s Law Center, Co-President of the Native American Law Student Association, an Admissions Ambassador, a member of the LSA Admissions Committee, and a staff writer for the Journal of Law and Social Justice. This summer she will be working in New York City and she is interested in working in labor and employment law. Maria can be reached by email at benvenma@bc.edu. 


“When you strip away all of the labels, the conversation is just about people.”

That is the sentiment that Rosie Rios, the 43rd treasurer of the United States, embedded throughout her presentation to the BC Law community on March 22nd. Ms. Rios was the longest serving treasury official, beginning her career on the Treasury/Federal Reserve Transition Team in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. Upon resigning in 2016, Ms. Rios received the Hamilton Award, the highest honor presented in the US Department of the Treasury. She is a graduate of Harvard University, and is the first Latina to have a portrait commissioned in her honor on their campus. Most notably, Rosie Rios is known for spearheading efforts to place a picture of the first woman on US currency; the design will be revealed on August 26, 2020, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote under the 19th Amendment.

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On Privilege, Action, and Trump

On Tuesday night, I lay in bed refreshing the New York Times app and checking Twitter franticly. I voted for Hillary Clinton, and supported her from the first day of the primaries to the last day of the general; in fact I’d hoped that she would be running long before she announced it. When the push notification came into my phone naming Trump as president-elect, I cried.

The results of the election were gutting, for a number of reasons. After a campaign fueled by hatred and fear, Donald Trump’s presidency validated every anxiety I had felt during the general election—that there were more people willing to put the rights of others on the line to salvage their own privilege than there were people willing to work to correct the injustices in this country. We now know that Hillary won the popular vote, and while that is in and of itself reassuring, it does nothing to assuage my concerns about what a Trump presidency will mean for the safety of people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, disabled people, Muslims, or immigrants. Almost half the country voted for someone who admitted to sexually assaulting women, who called Mexicans rapists, who promised to ban Muslims, and who mocked a disabled person, and that is a stain on our history that will never come out.

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