Saturday, January 31, 2009
The Mormon church said the expenditures took place between July 1 and the end of the 2008. The LDS Church's involvement has been a major issue in the campaign and its aftermath. Friday's report came in response to a complaint filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission which claimed that church officials violated election law by failing to file campaign disclosure reports outlining all the Church's spending on the campaign.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Like John F., I get a little nervous when groups like Scientology come under fire. It is all to easy to imagine the same rhetoric and tactics turned on other minority religions. (I realize there are good arguments that Scientology doesn't constitute a religion, but for the purposes of the First Amendment it does.) Last year when the group "Anonymous" began its campaign against Scientologists worldwide, I couldn't help cringing. Most of the criticisms aimed at Scientology could also apply to Jehova's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons, and any other minority religion. And because Scientologists weren't popular with the press or mainstream Christians, this campaign of intimidation, cyber-crime, and copyright infringement was tacitly condoned by most people.
Jeff F. points out that the only reason Mormons in Germany haven't been subject to the same treatment as Scientolgists and Jehova's Witnesses is because they are marginally less unpopular. I think the same could be said of campaigns like Anonymous -- they haven't targeted Mormons only because other groups are less popular. And in the wake of Proposition 8, I see the fortunes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints growing worse rather than better in the near future.
I should note that the Anonymous campaign is significantly different from the actions of the German government, in that it is private action rather than state action. The First Amendment is designed to protect religious groups and their beliefs, even unpopular ones, from governmental interference. But religious groups are supposed to enjoy similar protections in Germany under the German Constitution and Article 10 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Other countries such as Canada have also treated religious and political minorities unequally despite constitutional and governmental laws to the contrary. The protections afforded to religious groups in America have been on the decline ever since the 1990 Supreme Court Case Employment Division v. Smith . It isn't hard to imagine the U.S. government engaging in similar discrimination under the guise of national security or equality.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Gordon Madsen and Jeffrey Walker are leading a team preparing the Legal and Business Series of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Both are attorneys as well as Church history and legal scholars who are part-time instructors at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU.
"Part of the scope of our series is to look at all the legal cases that Joseph was involved in, either as a plaintiff, defendant, material witness or judge, as he wore all those hats," Walker explained."Brigham Young is often quoted that Joseph was involved in some 50 court cases," he noted. Brigham Young reported that he was present for most of them and that Joseph Smith was never convicted of any charges.
While that is a fair estimate of the number of criminal cases involving the Prophet, "in terms of the total litigation that Joseph was involved in, we've identified more than 220 cases," Madsen said. "We still don't know how many are still out there. It's a far broader expanse of raw material than we had originally expected."
Moreover, there are lobbying efforts to be considered, incorporation of the Church, for example, and petitions to the state and federal government for redress of wrongs suffered in Missouri. "And then, finally, he was a judge for a period as the mayor of Nauvoo city, where he presided over trials, and by virtue of being lieutenant-general in command of the Nauvoo Legion, presided over courts-martial in the legion.""It's interesting," added Walker, "that this is an area that Joseph Smith was so involved in, but that we've made so little concerted effort to understand it, to put it in context with other events, with the revelations he received, correspondence he had and the journals he kept. Our goal is to interlace all those experiences with his legal world, his involvement with the courts, in business and in government."
Both scholars marveled at Joseph Smith's to bear up under the pressure of legal cases with all his other responsibilities. "To think that at times Joseph Smith had a dozen or more active lawsuits that he was handling is amazing," Walker said. "And it's not in a passive way. We find him actively involved, from scrutinizing the lawyers and their bills to what is going on in the case, if it's going well or poorly, and determining what direction to take. I think through these experiences, coupled with his innate ability, Joseph Smith proves to be extremely capable in understanding the legal process and his role both as a litigant and ultimately as a judge."
Madsen pointed out that the 220 cases were with one exception compressed into a 16-year time period, 1826-1844, averaging about one case a month. "That means a major chunk of his life was involved just in legal matters."
The two scholars have brought an attorney's methodology to the task of understanding Joseph Smith's legal environment. "We actually create case files for every lawsuit, including the pleadings, documents and the applicable law," Walker explained.
Unfortunately, they have no complete files, as many pleadings and documents no longer exist (several court houses burned down and destroyed all the records they held). To help fill in missing information and place the cases in historical context, they have collected law books from Joseph Smith's time and setting.
"The case law, statutes and commentary that we're interested in are the law that Joseph Smith's lawyers and the courts would have applied," Walker said. "And that has been a very fascinating history lesson of early 19th century law for us as lawyers."
In fact, a failing of some of Joseph's critics has been neglecting to view matters in the context of the times, the two men agreed. "We're particularly careful to try to be certain we're not open to that same criticism with what we produce; hence the need for early law books, early commentaries, and just sort of thinking in 19th century prose and legalese," Madsen said.
Aiding the effort are archivists, researchers and other lawyers, as well as a corps of young law students at the university from a course that the two attorneys teach with John Welch on Joseph Smtih and the law.
"This is our third year, and each year the class gets larger," Brother Walker said. "I think the students understand what we understand: that this is really both important and a unique opportunity to not only use our legal training and our interest in Church history, but to do it in a way that has never been done before." When published, the volumes, will cover the largest compilation of documents in history pertaining to Joseph Smith's legal cases and business affairs.
There is much to be learned from such a comprehensive study. For example, Joseph Smith spoke repeatedly of being plagued by "vexatious lawsuits." That was not just his manner of speaking. Madsen said a statute in Ohio defined a vexatious lawsuit as one in which the plaintiff, in certain cases, who brought an action and recovered $5 or less in damages was required to pay the court costs, often more than $5, even though he won the case.
"It acted as kind of a deterrent to some," Madsen said, "who were just going around suing people to be obnoxious."
Madsen said their study bears out the truth of Brigham Young's report that Joseph was never convicted in any criminal case in which he was accused.
As for civil cases, though they incurred business losses, the overwhelming evidence is that Joseph Smith and his associates made conscientious efforts to satisfy their obligations, Walker said. "With this perspective, it is not surprising to see in the correspondence that the creditors are enormously sympathetic to Joseph Smith and mindful of the persecutions that the Church often experienced."
It will not be covered until the latter volume in the series, but the case of the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor is perhaps the most famous of the legal cases involving Joseph Smith, this is because it set in motion a chain of events that ended with the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith at Carthage Jail.
"As Gordon and I have worked through the events, we continue to understand it better," Brother Walker said.
Though the immediate charge in connection with the destruction of the libelous newspaper was riot, it was a charge of treason — for which bail could not be posted — that caused the two brothers to be held in the jail, where they were ultimately vulnerable to the mob that killed them.
Brother Madsen said a charge of treason in connection with a state statute rather than a federal law was and still is highly irregular. In fact, only two other such cases have ever been brought in U.S. history, both of them bearing no resemblance to the Carthage case and both of them occurring afterward.
Underpinning the treason charge against Joseph Smtih was his declaration of martial law in the face of a threat of mob violence against the people of Nauvoo. "Consequently," Brother Walker said, "I would say that Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith were martyred for trying to protect their people. The Expositor was an underlying subplot to the story, but the reason they found themselves in that jail on the 27th of June, 1844, was not due to the destruction of the Expositor. It had to do with the fact that Joseph and Hyrum were making their best effort to protect the saints. And for that, they would be killed."
They hope to bring reform to these law firms by showing what's really going on in the law firm. This transperancy will put pressure on law firms to give their associates a better chance for promotion within the firm and the chance to work for a law firm that truly cares about their associates and their health and happiness. I enjoy seeing what law firms are dedicated to providing their attorneys with a great lifestyle. Such transparency will be very important to me when I decide where to work. Below is a detailed look at how "Building a better legal community" compiled their data.
How did "Building a Better Legal Profession" Compile their Data?
Our process is simple: cut, paste, and rank. The National Association for Legal Career Professionals (NALP) maintains a public, online directory of law firm employment statistics, including demographic information, to facilitate “legal career counseling and planning.” For every law firm office employing 100 or more attorneys in the six major legal markets (New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Southern California, Northern California, and Boston) as well as five subsidiary markets (Atlanta, Miami, Pacific Northwest, Philadelphia, and Texas,) we collected data from the NALP directory and then sorted the firms from best to worst. We included an office within a geographic market if 90% or more of the office’s lawyers are located within that market. The NALP data collected for each office is based on the most recent firm self reports, which was current as of
Some firms decline to report office-specific information and report only firmwide data to NALP. We included firms filing a multi-office NALP form where 90% or more of the firms’ attorneys were located in one office within one of the relevant ranked geographic markets. There were 16 firms included pursuant to this rule, as follows:
Arnold & Porter
Cahill, Gordon & Reindel
Cravath, Swaine &
Farella, Braun & Martel San Francisco
Nutter, McClennon & Fish
Schulte, Roth & Zabel
Seward & Kissel
Sonnenschein, Nath &
Types of Tables
The website allows users to dynamically generate three types of tables. First, our “Diversity Rankings” cover five groups underrepresented in the legal profession: women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and openly gay, bisexual, or transgendered individuals (LGBT). This function allows users to rank the offices by the percentage of attorneys they employ from that group, with separate lists for partners and associates. These rankings include the absolute number of attorneys in that minority group (broken down by gender) immediately to the right of the percentage). We then divide this ranking into quintiles and assign letter grades (A, B, C, D, and F) to each of these quintiles. The grade received by the office is displayed on the right hand side of the table. Offices displayed in boldfaced type are those that are Vault-ranked “most prestigious” in that particular regional market.
Users should observe a note of caution regarding the rankings. There is tremendous variability and not a little dissembling by firms in the definition of “partner.” Some firms, such as Wachtell Lipton, have only one tier of partner – that of full equity partner. Far more commonly, firms use multiple and shifting definitions of partnership and include many tiers of “income,” or “nonequity” partners as well as real, full equity partners. Women and minority lawyers are disproportionately represented in these lesser categories of partners, which often do not carry full voting and management rights, while the equity partnership is predominantly white and male. NALP currently permits firms to aggregate their tiers and categories of partnership. This is misleading to students and leads to unfair comparisons between firms such as Wachtell, with its single equity tier reporting a low 9.9% (F) for female partners and firms such as San Francisco’s Orrick which received an A for its 20.8% female partnership without revealing the distribution of women between its real equity partnership and its nonequity “partners.” These comparisons between firms with one tier and those with multiple tiers are, obviously, comparing apples and oranges. While our website reflects the best and most accurate information currently available, we are currently collecting and analyzing data on the important topic of partnership structure and diversity and hope to display it on the website in the near term.
The second type of table users can generate on our website is a Diversity Report Card. This table aggregates the information from the five “Diversity Rankings” for each geographic market and presents them in a single table. The firm’s letter grade in each of the 10 diversity categories (e.g, female partners) is assigned a letter grade and then all 10 letter grades are averaged to suggest the firm’s overall diversity. These overall grades are calculated much like a law student’s GPA: an A is worth 4.0, a D is worth 1.0 and C’s are 2.0 each. We rank firms by their overall grade point average. If multiple firms have the same GPA then they are listed in alphabetical order.
This report card provides students with a quick reference guide when trying to determine how well represented certain minority groups are at a particular office. Offices with higher grade point averages are more likely to be hospitable to underrepresented groups.
Finally, we present an additional ranking entitled “Female Opportunity Gap.” This measures the difference between the proportion of female associates and female partners at a given office. An office with a small gap, such as
Monday, January 26, 2009
Positions: Corporate Associate and Litigation Associate
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Corporate Associate: The LA office of a top national law firm is seeking a corporate associate with 3-5 years experience in M&A, capital markets and/or finance. California bar required. For more information about this position or to apply, please see Position 10233 on Lateral Link.
Litigation Associate: One of the most selective litigation boutiques in California is seeking a junior litigation associate. Candidate should have stellar credentials and 1-4 years of litigation experience at another top firm. For more information about this position or to apply, please see Position 10268 on Lateral Link.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
As you might imagine, this has made many donors nervous. One group of Proposition 8 supporters already filed suit in Indiana federal court seeking an injunction. The lawsuits alleges that Proposition 8 supporters have experienced “death threats, acts of domestic terrorism, physical violence, threats of physical violence, vandalism of personal property, harassing phone calls, harassing e-mails, blacklisting and boycotts,” and that an the donor information should not be disclosed.
Ironically, there are a couple Ninth Circuit cases that might have protected this disclosure if the supporters of Proposition 8 had been fewer. But because the referendum passed, those cases would not apply. Thus, there doesn't appear to be any case law that would allow withholding donor information of a large political group, even in the face of a hypothetically strident or threatening minority. Eugene Volokh has more discussion here, including whether technological changes (like Prop 8 Maps) should alter the calculus.
I was interested in the case because it reminded me of the situation in NAACP v. Alabama, a civil rights-era case that challenged a somewhat similar law in Alabama that required all corporations to disclose their membership or shareholders. In 1956 the State of Alabama sought to obtain a list of all the members of the NAACP in the state, and the organization refused. The resulting lawsuit was appealed up to the Supreme Court, where the Court recognized a high likelihood of a substantial restraint on the NAACP members' exercise of their right to freedom of association. Justice Harlan wrote:
The Alabama law was similar to laws in many states, and there was no evidence shown that it was recently passed or specifically tailored to apply to the NAACP. Any resulting infringement of free speech was, therefore, an accidental interference. Accidental interferences with free speech should be resolved by balancing the degree of interference with the state's regulatory interest. In the case of the Alabama law the state had a valid interest in knowing the personal information of corporation members/shareholders, but it was vastly outweighed by the enormous interference with the free speech of organizations such as the NAACP. This was particularly important because there are few alternatives to organized political speech.
Now consider the California law that requires disclosure of political donors' personal information if the donors contribute more than $100. At the outset, it is important to courts recognize a free speech insterest in engaging in anonymous speech, so the compelled disclosure of donor information does constitute a restriction on free speech. But almost all courts have upheld disclosure requirements on political contributions. Like the Alabama law, the California law doesn't appear to have been enacted or amended to specifically apply to the supporters of Proposition 8, so any interference with free speech is probably accidental rather than intentional.
Once again the analysis requires a balancing of the free speech interests and government regulatory interests, but the outcome should be different in the current situation. The threats, vandalism, and harassment experienced by Proposition 8 supporters so far don't come close to the widespread, institutional persecution and prejudice experience by civil rights supporters in Alabama in 1956. Additionally, the California law does not require disclosure of all members of groups favoring the passage of Proposition 8, or even all donors to the cause. The $100 donor threshold is admittedly quite low, but it still represents a lesser infringement on free speech interests than the Alabama law. The California law also presents stronger regulatory interests, since the disclosure of political contributors can help prevent fraud and illegal donations. These interests are designed to ensure the successful operation of the democratic system, and therefore serve some of the same goals as the First Amendment itself.
The bottom line is that the California disclosure law and any initiative using that data are almost certainly legal and permissible under the First Amendment. Projects like Prop 8 Maps are definitely creepy, and as many same-sex marriage supporters have observed, they are the "perfect tool for backlash." I would consider it unconscionable to participate in a similar project. But this is part of the price we pay for maintaining free speech in America.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The House of Representatives of the Association of American Law Schools has elected H. Reese Hansen, a professor and former dean at the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, as the 2010 president of the AALS. Hansen will be the first BYU faculty member to serve as president of the AALS. He will serve as president-elect for 2009.
"Election as president of the AALS is one of the highest honors that can come to a law professor,” said James Gordon, interim dean of the BYU Law School. “It reflects Professor Hansen's exceptional leadership in legal education nationally."
The AALS is the nation’s principal representative of legal education to the federal government, other national higher education organizations, learned societies and international law schools. It is an association of 171 law schools. The organization is also a resource for the improvement of the quality of legal education by networking law school faculty, professional staff and deans to information and resources.
In speaking directly about Hansen, Prager said, “Reese Hansen is an extraordinary person. He is not only a careful analyst and a remarkably dedicated and generous person, but he also has superb judgment, a quality that is truly invaluable. Reese has the ability to work effectively with people of a wide range of perspectives, which is so important, not only in the context of the AALS executive committee, which is a highly collaborative institution, but in our discipline of law and in the world.”
Hansen has served the AALS in a variety of positions. He served for three years on the executive committee during which time he was also the chair of the audit and financial policy committee. Prior to his service with the executive committee, Hansen was a member of the AALS Membership Review Committee, founding chair of the Section for the Law School Dean, chair of the Section for Pre-Legal Education and Admission to Law School and as a member of the Committee on Libraries and Technology.
“I look forward to continuing my service to the AALS,” Hansen said. “I am grateful to the association for its important contributions to the legal academy, the legal profession and to the American legal system. It is an honor to serve with the remarkable and dedicated people who do the work of the AALS.”
In addition to Hansen’s service with the AALS, he is also serving as a member of the Utah Judicial Council Ad Hoc Committee on Probate Law and Procedure and the Utah Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Professionalism. He has served as director of the Association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools and trustee of Utah Legal Services Inc. He made significant contributions as a Commissioner on the Commission on Uniform State Laws and was an ex-officio Commissioner of the Utah Bar.
Hansen is the Howard W. Hunter Professor of Law at the BYU Law School. He is a leading scholar in the fields of trust law, probate law and wills and estate planning. He joined the faculty of the BYU Law School in 1973 after practicing law in Salt Lake City. He served as acting dean of the BYU Law School from 1989 to 1990 and as dean from 1990 to 2004. He has also served as trustee of the Law School Admission Council and director of Law School Admissions Services Inc.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The answer to this problem is complex and their are a lot of complications involved in prosecuting terrorists, like publicing national security issues. However terrorists are not going to go away. 50 years from now are we going to still take people and never prove their guilty? Should those that are in Guantanomo sit there for 50 years without ever having the chance to prove themselves innocent? Before you think that I'm soft on these alleged terrorists I'm not. If they are found to have blood on their hands I think they should be immediately executed but that's after they've been proven guilty.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Tom Hanks said “The truth is this takes place in Utah (polygamy), the truth is these people are some bizarre offshoot of the Mormon Church, and the truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop-8 happen,”. “There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them. I do not like to see any discrimination codified on any piece of paper, any of the 50 states in America, but here's what happens now. A little bit of light can be shed, and people can see who's responsible, and that can motivate the next go around of our self correcting Constitution, and hopefully we can move forward instead of backwards. So let's have faith in not only the American, but Californian, constitutional process.” Says Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks made several mistakes in the comments he made. First it's interesting how Hanks starts out talking about members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (which by definition are not "Mormons"). Hanks then moves right into talking about real Mormons. It's statements like his that intentionally and unintentionally blur the line between the two Churches. As executive producer of a polygamist TV show Tom Hanks knows the difference between mainstream Mormonism and small off shoots and I think he intentionally was trying to fuse the two Churches together.
Tom Hanks statement of "the truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop-8 happen". Mormons did not send any money to the Mormon Church to fight Prop-8. Members of the Mormon Church sent their money to the group Protect Marriage. So no Hanks your statement isn't true, the money did not come from the Mormon Church but from Mormons themselves. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints contributed a total of $2,078.97 to the Prop. 8 cause.
Tom Hanks then said "but here's what happens now. A little bit of light can be shed, and people can see who's responsible, and that can motivate the next go around of our self correcting Constitution." I guess if posting "black lists" of Prop. 8 donors is "shedding a little light" then yes, that was done. Protesting outside a California restaurant until the manager quits because she donated $100 to the prop 8. cause. Or forcing the California Musical Theater of Sacramento to resign after some gay and lesbian activists called for a theater boycott. Interesting that I didn't see anyone who contributed against Prop. 8 forced to resign from their jobs. Blackmailing people because of the way they voted sounds pretty "un-American" to me Mr. Hanks.
If Tom Hanks is really worried about discrimination that has been written into state Constitutions he should help the FLDS polygamists who live in Utah. As Hanks probably doesn't know it was written into Utah's constitution that marriage can never be recognized between a man and two women. So as I mentioned in a previous post, Hanks should take some of the millions he and his friends have made off of his polygamy show and donate it to the practicing polygamists in Utah so that they are no longer discriminated against.
There are now 25 (or so) states that have officially banned gay marriage in their state. In each of these instances the American public voted unanimously "NO" to gay marriage. Every time the gay marriage issue has been put to a vote it has been shot down by the American voting public. If Tom Hanks is calling Americans voting for laws they believe in to be "un-American" then he's an idiot. In essence when Tom Hanks said that Mormons were un-American for supporting Prop. 8 he also said that every American who has ever supported or voted to ban gay marriage in any state to be un-American.
Supporting and voting on issues that are very important to a person is not un-American it's what being an American is all about.
Factors weighing into the decision would include (but is not limited to) the following--
- Whether someone is entering law school directly from an undergraduate or bachelor's degree, or if there has been an intervening number of years of work experience;
- Whether that person can afford to proceed to law school without outside employment (even after considering the availability of student loans and scholarships), or whether the person must remain employed;
- The availability of law schools within a reasonable driving distance of home and employment;
- Whether the student would be willing to relocate solely for the purposes of entering into a law school;
- Whether the law school's schedule will be compatible with outside employment; or in the alternative, whether a night school is available;
- Whether the school is ABA accredited; or in the alternative, whether one would be able to accept the implications of going to a school that only has state accreditation (including certain jurisdictional limitations on where one can practice, or possible disabilities relating to transfer or relocation to other states);
- Family considerations (i.e., spouse, dependants, significant others, etc.);
- The quality of the school(s) being considered, independent of the certification issue, including the track record of students that have have previously graduated from the school;
- The student's prior accomplishments and legal aptitude (i.e., GPA and LSAT), including whether the student will be able to receive one or more scholarships at the desired school;
- The cost of tuition for the schools being considered (or alternatively, the estimated amount of debt one will face after completion of studies); and,
- One's reasons for going to law school in the first place, and to what extent these reasons are career-oriented.
Arguably, it would seem as if the last factor would be among the most important. If one's motive is specifically to join the top 5% of law firms anywhere in the country, or to work in a high profile position in federal or state government, the school one goes to becomes highly relevant. At the other extreme, there are those who study the law purely from the standpoint of personal interest or to supplement knowledge in one's current career. In such instances, the school becomes somewhat less relevant.
Between these extremes are combinations of personal interest and career in various amounts, and these have to be balanced out carefully against the remaining factors as outlined above. #SJR#
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Position: Corporate Associate
Location: Seattle, WA
Description: This northwest regional law firm, is looking for a full time associate to join the Business and Corporate practice group in their Seattle office. The ideal candidate will have 3-5 years of experience in some or all aspects of business and corporate practice, including corporate, real estate transactions (purchase, sale and financing), and general business, in addition to excellent research, writing and analytical skills. The attorney would be joining a growing group and will have the immediate opportunity for high-level work with the partners in the group. Seattle locals preferred, but the firm will consider strong candidates nationwide.
Membership in Lateral Link is free and you can apply at www.laterallink.com.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
I'm embarrassed to say that I was unfamiliar with the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, but I'm very happy to have it called to my attention. Thomas Jefferson apparently proposed the law in 1779, but it wasn't passed until 1786. The document is a bit difficult to read, with more than 700 words crammed into two colossal sentences, but it is worth the effort. I find three things particularly interesting about the Statute. The first is how familiar it sounds:
. . . Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.I think the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom articulates the same American ideals that found home in the Eleventh Article of Faith. It certainly seems to be in harmony with the Mormon Church's teachings on the matter.
The second thing I noticed was how the concept of agency was referenced throughout the text. The Statute begins:
Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do . . .The Virginia legislators essentially explained the necessity of free agency in the Plan of Salvation. I think this is fascinating, and I wonder if this was a commonly held belief at the time.
The third and final observation I have is how the drafters of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom weren't reluctant to invoke Deity in their legislation. Presumably the legislators subscribed to different denominations or ways of thought -- Jefferson himself apparently subscribed to a deist philosophy -- but that didn't preclude any references to God in the Statute. This sort of language also makes it fairly clear that the concept of freedom of religion held by the so-called Founding Fathers was distinct from the views of many today.
I occasionally hear members of the Mormon Church (often around the 4th of July) express the patriotic notion that American was founded on "just and holy principles." If you were to argue, as many have done before, that America was founded by inspired men, the Virginia Statute for Religions Freedom would be a good starting point.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Does the Mormon Church have a stance on alcohol control policy? There is no item on the Public Issues page of the LDS Newsroom like there is for abortion, child abuse, euthanasia, or embryonic stem-cell research. However, last September the Newsroom issued a press release entitled "Alcohol: A Focus on Health and Safety," which stated; "The Church has always called for reasonable regulations to (1) limit overconsumption, (2) reduce impaired driving and (3) work to eliminate underage drinking." The statement is heavily focused on the State of Utah, where the Mormon Church has large membership and community involvement.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that Utahns, including those who work in the hospitality industry, can come together as citizens, regardless of religion or politics, to support laws and regulations that allow individual freedom of choice while preserving Utah’s proven positive health and safety record on limiting the tragic consequences of overconsumption of alcohol.
With those goals in mind, what sort of regulatory scheme is preferable? This is where Professor Cook's comments are enlightening. He notes that regulations aimed at the negative behaviors associated with alcohol consumption are relatively costly and difficult to enforce. His solution is to aim for the pocketbook. Professor Cook argues that the current taxation levels of alcohol are at historic lows and are insufficient to take into account the cost to society of alcohol. He follows this assertion up with some data on alcohol consumption and an interesting hypothetical:
Taxation isn't my area of expertise, but this proposal piqued my interest. I doubt it would be a politically viable proposal, but it sounds great on paper. Professor Cook then discusses the more important question of how much each drink should be taxed. If a decrease in alcohol consumption causes a decrease in drunk driving deaths, child abuse, and crime, a purely health and safety approach would advocate a rate of taxation so high as to virtually eliminate (legal) drinking. This is obviously infeasible. Professor Cook writes:
I agree with this approach, at it would seem to fit the Mormon Church's recommendation for a reasonable regulation to limit overconsumption, impaired driving, and underage drinking.
Photo credit: Ben McLeod.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Sunday, January 11, 2009
So it’s been a week of beginnings.
But in introducing myself and the posts I anticipate I will publish here, I wanted to take a moment (--all right, perhaps a few moments--) to talk about two other beginnings: The one which led me to the restored gospel, and the one which led me to the law.
For it came to pass that for much of my life, I had experiences with neither. In the first place, I was brought up in a secular family, with my Dad’s side of the tree being Jewish, and my mother’s side having Christian--or at least Gentile--origins. And in the second place, my undergraduate degree was in computer science--not law--and among my first jobs following graduation was to design and code changes to mainframe computer programs.
As important as the first beginning is, I will only touch upon it by way of reference. For in my earliest experiences with EDS, I was introduced to a colleague and mentor who had introduced the Gospel to me, beginning with, of all things, a family blessing over a bowl of french onion soup. Many missionary discussions and over a year later, I came to a testimony of my own, and in 1993, was baptized. At my family’s website, I provide a more detailed account, which is referenced further in the October 2008 Ensign ("Online Outreach," Comments section).
Thus, on towards my second beginning. For me, the road to law began rather quietly. The seeds may have been planted during my undergraduate years when I was assigned to write a term paper regarding censorship in the public schools, and in the process needed to reference a number of appellate and Supreme Court opinions. In reading through the reporter volumes, in ways I am unable to describe or express, an interest was kindled, even to the point where I found myself reading opinions that were entirely off topic. At the conclusion of my project, I filed these things in the back of my mind. After all, my professional goal was to work with computers, not to practice law, and anyway, it’s difficult to change academic goals mid-stream.
Even so, I was interested enough to later request information from BYU regarding its law school, which I promptly filed away as well.
A number of years passed. I was in a seemingly stable career, had married Melinda in the Nashville Temple, and had one child on the way. At work, though, I could sense a number of changes happen around me, and I began to question whether my skills and talents that I had then could sustain me over the long term. Melinda and I talked about these concerns. Then, as I was cleaning out my file cabinet, I happened upon the BYU literature that I had requested some years before. Melinda looked through the documents and asked, “Why don’t you again consider a law degree?” It was a question I took seriously, and when we prayed over the question, I felt a clear and unmistakable prompting that it’s what I should do.
But how? I wasn’t in a position to become a full-time student, I could not quit my job, and I was in even less of a position to move. So I initially dismissed the prompting. Even so, Melinda suggested that I register for the LSAT anyway, just to see how I would do. I agreed, and I registered to take the test the following February. Surely there would be no conflict with the test schedule, I thought to myself -- after all, our baby wasn’t expected to be born until near the middle of April, and the pregnancy seemed to be uneventful.
As it turned out, due to a medical emergency, our daughter Andrea had to be born ten weeks early, during the same week as the LSAT. I had my test preparation manuals, but I was mentally in no shape to use them. I was then spending much time at Vanderbilt University Medical Center checking on Melinda, who was then recovering from an unplanned C-section, and Andrea, who was beginning her life at the neonatal intensive care unit. Her future in particular appeared very uncertain at that point. I asked Melinda, as she was yet in bed recovering, is there any way I could go forward with the LSAT? Her inspired reply was: Take it anyway.
I might still not have taken the test but for the fact that the NICU was located literally within walking distance of the university’s law school, where it was to be administered. So only four days after Andrea was born, I left the NICU, walked over to the law school, somehow was blessed with enough presence of mind to work through the test calmly, then returned to the hospital. I later learned I had scored just slightly above average -- not a stellar performance by any means, but it was a miracle under the circumstances. Not long after that, Melinda happened upon a local law school that was structured around nighttime study, and there’s where I ultimately went.
There were repeated promptings during law school itself, usually during times of significant stress or trial. I may touch on these experiences in later articles. But for now, I hope it is sufficient when I saw that I was not left comfortless during these times. There were repeated assurances through the Holy Ghost that somehow, some way, I would have the requisite capacity to complete my studies and to pass the bar exam. And now it has come to pass. In fact, I did pass the bar exam on the first attempt, and prior to that, had managed to graduate with honors, finishing in the top 5% of my class.
And in yet another sign from above that the transition to law was needful, my former position with EDS ultimately collapsed, and I was terminated literally in the same month that I graduated from the law school. Today, I have a private practice in a small town south of Nashville, Tennessee. And in my office, I have pictures on my wall to make it very clear at the outset that I’m a Latter-day Saint, beginning with pictures of Jesus Christ and the Salt Lake Temple in my reception area.
Every path to the legal profession is unique. But I would submit that some experiences are more unique than others, and this is perhaps one of them. Still, the common thread is this: If, in the year of my college graduation, someone were to tell me that I would become a Christian and later become an attorney, I would have responded that he would be crazy for saying that even one of these things would happen. What made the difference in both cases was in following the promptings of Holy Ghost. And this is how it is possible to embark upon such an unconventional path as mine.
Just very quickly in closing: I presently serve as the second assistant in the High Priests group, and Melinda serves as a second counselor in the Young Women’s presidency. And from all indications, Andrea recovered fully from her rough start in life. Bright in both personality and intelligence, she does very well in school these days. She even reads at the fourth grade level, even though she is only part way into first grade, and insists often on watching the NASA satellite channel.
As with all blogs, more to follow. I leave these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
--Sander J. "Sandy" Rabinowitz is an attorney whose solo practice is located in Columbia, Tennessee.
2. The Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) gains widespread national attention after Mitt Romney seeks Republican nomination and LDS members are active in opposing California's Proposition 8.The Church also played a prominent role in the clash between religious liberties and sexual orientation non-discrimination (#3), the high-profile raid on the FLDS Church compound in Texas (#5), and the challenge to IRS rules on church involvement to political campaigns (#6). Other similar lists, such as the one by Time Magazine, carried similar rankings. For better or for worse, 2008 was a banner year for the Mormon Church in the news.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Utah's attorney general is investigating the Bowl Championship Series for a possible violation of federal antitrust laws after an undefeated Utes team was left out of the national title game for the second time in five years.
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff contends the BCS unfairly puts schools like Utah, which is a member of a conference without an automatic bid to the lucrative bowl games, at a competitive and financial disadvantage.
"We've established that from the very first day, from the very first kickoff in the college season, more than half of the schools are put on an unlevel playing field," Shurtleff said Tuesday. "They will never be allowed to play for a national championship."
The BCS is designed to pit the top two teams against each other in a national championship game each year. It uses a complicated formula based on human polls and computer rankings to determine who plays in that game, which Shurtleff contends is biased.
The Associated Press crowns its own national champion based on a poll of sports writers who are not bound to vote for the winner of the BCS title game. Many fans are clamoring for voters to put Utah -- the nation's only undefeated team -- in the No. 1 spot in the final poll.
Shurtleff said his office is still in the initial stages of reviewing the Sherman Antitrust Act to see if a lawsuit can be filed. To succeed in a lawsuit, he would have to prove a conspiracy exists that creates a monopoly. Shurtleff said he prefers that BCS officials and university presidents solve the problem of excluding some schools from a national title game by creating a playoff system, but added he's committed to doing whatever it takes to produce change.
Under the BCS, about $9.5 million is distributed among Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Western Athletic conferences for making their teams available to play in BCS games.
If a school from any of those conferences receives an at-large invitation to play in a BCS bowl or championship game, those conferences get an additional 9 percent of BCS revenues among them, which come from television rights and the bowls themselves.
If more than one school from those conferences make the BCS bowls or championship game, those conferences get an extra $4.5 million for each additional team. By comparison, the share to each conference with an automatic berth in the BCS -- the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC -- is about $18 million each. When a second team from one of those conferences qualifies to play in a BCS game, as the SEC accomplished this year with Alabama and Florida, that conference gets an additional $4.5 million.
"It's not about bragging rights. It's a multimillion dollar -- hundreds of millions -- business where the BCS schools get richer and non-BCS get poorer," Shurtleff said. While I do agree with Shurtleff that the BCS bowls are stacked in favor of certain teams and certain conferences there is absolutely no way that Utah should have been National Champions this year. They played a weak schedule and play in a weak conference. If the University of Utah played in the Pac 10, Big 12, or SEC I guarantee they would not have gone undefeated.
In its Finding the NJ Division of Civil Rights held:
When it invites the public at large to use it, the [Ocean Grove Camp Meeting] Association is subject to the [New Jersey] Law Against Discrimination, and enforcement of that law in this context does not affect the Association’s constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion.The Association stopped renting the Pavilion for events after April 1, 2007. Another lesbian couple tried to rent the facility after that point and sued when they were rejected, but the NJ Division of Civil Rights rejected that case.
I'm not licensed in New Jersey but I have a few thoughts on this issue. The clear message from the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights is that churches should think twice before they make their property available to the public. For the most part, the Mormon Church is ahead of this trend, controlling most of its property in such a way that it could not be construed to be public use. However, the result of the Division's ruling is lamentable, since it prevents certain religious organizations from providing a service to their communities.
Secondly, this case underscores the growing conflict between the gay rights movement and religious liberties. Presumably, a different religious organization that does not object to same-sex marriages or civil unions would still be free to operate a facility such as the Boardwalk Pavilion. This can have significant tax financial implications for religious organizations. In this case, the Association had received a tax exemption under the New Jersey Green Acres program, which provides tax benefits to organizations that make their land available for public use. The Boardwalk Pavilion property's tax-exempt status was revoked by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection after the Association stopped renting the property to the public. This case reminds me to some extent of the famous Bob Jones University Supreme Court case.
The Religion Clause notes that an appeal related to this case is pending before the 3rd Circuit, so we haven't heard the last of the Boardwalk Pavilion.
Photo credit: Asbury Park Press.
Friday, January 9, 2009
To access the on-line registration, click here.
To learn more, please visit www.jrclsconference.com
Thursday, January 8, 2009
W. Cole Durham Jr.is the Susan Young Gates University professor of law and the director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University's J. Reuben Clark Law School.
Durham was recognized for his work on religious liberty and comparative law, including authoring and contributing to several books and law reviews. He also has advised governments in several eastern European countries on laws dealing with religious freedom and religious associations. He also consulted with the Iraqi government on its constitution, according to the First Freedom Center.
The First Freedom Center is a non-profit, non-political and non-denominational organization that works to increase understanding and respect for religious freedom. The First Freedom award commemorates National Religious Freedom Day in January. The ceremony will be in Richmond on Jan. 15. For more information, go to www.firstfreedom.org.
1. Passing of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.
2. The LDS Church's involvement in passing California's Proposition 8--banning gay marriage.
3. Mitt Romney's Presidential Run.
4. Passing of the LDS Church's oldest (then) living apostle Joseph B. Wirthlin.
5. The Texas Child Protective services raid on the FLDS compound and the confusion between the differences between the LDS Church and the FLDS Church.
6. Dedications, re-dedication, and announcement of more LDS temples.
7. Two LDS members among the 5 finalists for Fox's "American Idol".
8. The publication of the first of thirty volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers.
9. Elder D. Todd Christofferson being named as the newest LDS apostle.
10. The 30th Anniversary of the announcement that "all worthy males" could hold the Priesthood.
I agree with most of their top ten list but let's be honest everyone knows that William Hung was the best American Idol that the show has ever seen.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The second historical case is where the Senate again showed its bigotry by attempting to block the first senator from Utah, after it was admitted as a state. Reed Smoot was blocked from voting (although the Senate did allow him to be sworn in) for two years while the Senate investigated not just whether Smoot was a polygamist (he wasn't) but also dissected the entire Mormon religion.Last year Weigant wrote about the Smoot Hearings, and he referenced a portion of that piece in the Huffington Post article:
[W]hile Smoot wasn't a serial marriage type of guy, he was pretty high up in the church hierarchy of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS). So the entire LDS church was put under the public microscope of a Senate investigation. Two full years were spent examining the Mormons, and the head of the church was called before the committee to be grilled on every aspect of the Mormonism, down to secret church rituals and dogma. The media of the day went along for the ride, with scandalous charges printed along with demonizing political cartoons. The hearings were packed, with lines outside for spectators to view.Weigant also cites the preface of Vanderbilt professor and historian Kathleen Flake's book, The Politics of Religious Identity.
The four-year Senate proceeding created a 3,500-page record of testimony by 100 witnesses on every peculiarity of Mormonism, especially its polygamous family structure, ritual worship practices, "secret oaths," open canon, economic communalism, and theocratic politics. The public participated actively in the proceedings. In the Capitol, spectators lined the halls, waiting for limited seats in the committee room, and filled the galleries to hear floor debates. For those who could not see for themselves, journalists and cartoonists depicted each day's admission and outrage. At the height of the hearing, some senators were receiving a thousand letters a day from angry constituents. What remains of these public petitions fills 11 feet of shelf space, the largest such collection in the National Archives.If the previous Senate denial cases have taught us anything, it is that this is dangerous ground. Virtually all legal scholars from Erwin Chemerinsky to Eugene Volokh agree that until Governor Blagojevich steps down or is removed, he maintains the legal authority under Illinois law to appoint a replacement when a U.S. Senator from Illinois vacates his seat. And as UC Irvine Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky wrote, "Senate Democrats are on weak constitutional ground in trying to deny a seat to a properly selected individual. Their claim to the power to exclude a lawfully chosen senator could create a dangerous precedent." The 1969 Supreme Court case Powell v. McCormack makes this pretty clear: "the Constitution does not vest in the Congress a discretionary power to deny membership by a majority vote." Alas, Powell was decided nearly a century too late for Senator Smoot, but perhaps it can quickly dispense with the current senatorial shenanigans.