‘Faith’ Not Compatible With Law School

Good – now by way of relief from the water-muddying of Ruse, let us turn to David Rudenstine, Dean of Cardozo Law School. At last, someone says it!

In a provocative address last week…the dean of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law warned of a “collision course with democratic order and social unity” as politically outspoken religious leaders wield increasing influence over the nation’s public policy. Dean David Rudenstine…further suggested that U.S. jurisprudence and legal education were “very much on the defensive,” in part because strict secularism as a legal paradigm is seen by the faithful — including some at Christian law schools — as an insufficient context for policy issues such as abortion rights, homosexual marriage, stem-cell research and Darwin’s theory of evolution. Mr. Rudenstine said that America’s law schools have a social responsibility, especially at a time of religious fundamentalism, to foster reasoned debate over the facts and science of such controversial matters.

Thank you. Reasoned debate over the facts and science. Precisely.

“Faith challenges the underpinnings of legal education,” Mr. Rudenstine declared. “Faith is a willingness to accept belief in things for which we have no evidence, or which runs counter to evidence we have.” He added, “Faith does not tolerate opposing views, does not acknowledge inconvenient facts. Law schools stand in fundamental opposition to this.”

Bingo! That’s exactly it – and that’s what you’re not allowed to say. ‘Faith’ is not a virtue, ‘faith’ is not the right basis for discussion of public issues, in fact it’s exactly the wrong basis for discussion of public issues, for exactly that reason – because it’s a willingness to accept belief in things for which we have no evidence, or which runs counter to evidence we have. And it doesn’t tolerate opposing views and it doesn’t acknowledge inconvenient facts. But how often do people come right out and say that? In public, I mean. Not damn well often enough.

Barry Lynn, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, was quick to associate himself with Mr. Rudenstine’s thesis…”No one expects politicians and policy-makers to divorce themselves entirely from the roots of their belief system, but in the United States, our laws have to be based on secular justifications.”

Just so. You can derive your moral views from any belief system you like, but when it comes to making actual laws, you have to give secular justifications, not religious ones. You have to come up with something more (and better) than ‘God said so.’ For one thing, ‘God’ said a lot of things, and some of them are quite disgusting.

Regent Law Dean Jeffrey A. Brauch countered, “I don’t think you can understand the historic development of law in this country if you don’t understand the role that religion has played, the role that faith and the church has played.” Much of the U.S. legal system, he said, comes from British common law, which “has a theological basis. Why is it we believe a king or a government ruler is obliged to some higher authority? It’s because there was a belief that there was a God and a higher law,” he said.

We don’t. We don’t, we don’t, we don’t.

Mr. Brauch said he believes in a “reasonable faith” as opposed to a “blind faith,” and that Regent and other religious law schools simply add spiritual dimension to academic pursuit. “Let’s say we’re talking about family law,” said Mr. Brauch. “Somebody in the class has a strong belief that a family with both a mother and father in a heterosexual marriage is better for children. I would hope that our students wouldn’t merely say, ‘That’s what I believe because it’s what I’ve always been taught,’ but that they’d look at a tremendous amount of empirical research that would show that, and then ask what that could mean for public policy.”

Well exactly, you fool! That’s what we’re saying! [takes deep breath] Look, if you look at empirical research and then ask what it could mean for public policy – that’s all we’re talking about. You’ll notice you forgot to mention your pal God there. This is our point. You don’t need it. It doesn’t add anything. You need the research and the analysis of the research and what it will mean, you don’t need God.

But of course he thinks he does. It’s sad, isn’t it – he sees the basic point, and yet he can’t take it in. Too stuck in that ‘spiritual dimension.’

But let’s hope more people will start doing a Rudenstine, and pointing out the problem with ‘faith.’

11 Responses to “‘Faith’ Not Compatible With Law School”