Essays

Why I Wanted to Debate Peter Singer

Wall Street Journal, Dec 18, 2016.
Excerpt: If you are a student at a college or university, you are there to learn—from the faculty, from the speakers who visit campus, and from each other. It is a precious opportunity. Making the most of these years requires cultivating and practicing… More

Five Pillars of a Decent and Dynamic Society

– In James R. Stoner, Jr. and Harold James (eds.), The Thriving Society: On The Social Conditions of Human Flourishing (The Witherspoon Institute, 2015). First presented as the keynote address at John Paul II Australian Leaders Forum, Sydney, August 2012; Lecture in the Loyola University’s Centennial Celebration, March 2013; Keynote address at Sutherland Institute's 2013 Annual Dinner, April 2013; Lecture at Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, September 2013.

The State of International Religious Freedom and Why It Matters

Orbis 59:1 (Winter 2015).
Abstract: One of America’s—more precisely, one of Philadelphia’s—greatest contributions to the world is freedom of conscience, the idea that people should be free to practice their religion—or not to practice at all. Today, as ISIS gives… More

Russia’s Extremism Law Violates Human Rights

The Moscow Times, November 26, 2014, with Katrina Lantos Swett.
Last Friday, a video deemed offensive to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church was ruled “extremist” by a city court in Vladimir. While Alexander Soldatov — chief editor of Credo.ru, the website that posted… More

The Ontological Status of Embryos: A Reply to Jason Morris

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 39:5 (2014), with Patrick Lee and Christopher Tollefsen.
Abstract: In various places we have defended the position that a new human organism, that is, an individual member of the human species, comes to be at fertilization, the union of the spermatozoon and the oocyte. This individual organism, during the ordinary… More

Supporting Religious Freedom

Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, May 30, 2014.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), of which I am Chairman, released its 2014 Annual Report on April 30. As in previous years, the report analyzed the condition of religious freedom in numerous countries, highlighting abuses of… More

Iran’s Forgotten Prisoners of Conscience

Wall Street Journal, May 19, 2014, with Katrina Lantos Swett.
As Iran approaches the anniversary of Hasan Rouhani’s presidential victory, the Islamic Republic’s human-rights record, particularly its treatment of religious minorities, remains abysmal. This is especially true for the Baha’is,… More

Religious Exemptions are Vital for Religious Liberty

Wall Street Journal, March 23, 2014, with Hamza Yusuf.
The United States is one of the most religiously diverse nations on earth. People of a vast array of traditions of faith live here in a harmony that would have been unthinkable in most of the world for most of human history. One of the ways America has… More

Dignity and Marriage

– In Christopher McCrudden (ed.), Understanding Human Dignity (Oxford UP/The British Academy, 2014).

Liberty and Conscience

National Affairs, Fall 2013.
One of the more dubious achievements of the Obama administration has been to put religious freedom and the rights of conscience back on the agenda in American politics. Most notoriously, the administration has sought to impose upon private employers,… More

Would Bombing Syria be a “Just War”?

Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2013.
Jean Bethke Elshtain, the eminent University of Chicago scholar who died last month at age 72, was a little lady from a small town in Colorado who became a giant in the field of political philosophy. She gained her stature not by conforming to the orthodoxies… More

The U.S.’s Lagging Commitment to Religious Freedom

Washington Post, August 21, 2013, with Katrina Lantos Swett.
Although religious freedom is a pivotal human right, critical to national security and global stability, key provisions of the landmark International Religious Freedom Act are being neglected years after its passage. A number of studies demonstrates the link… More

Pakistan’s Religious Minority Problem

Foreign Policy, August 9, 2013.
On Sunday, August 11, Pakistan will celebrate National Minorities Day, giving recently-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif his first formal opportunity to recognize the value of religious minority communities to the nation. Created in 2011, this day is a… More

Religious Freedom is About More Than Religion

Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2013, with Katrina Lantos Swett.
A common theory about freedom of religion suggests that such a value is grounded in a modus vivendi, or compromise: People agree to respect each other’s freedom in order to avoid religiously motivated strife. But the modus vivendi theory obscures the… More

Is the Pro-Choice Position on Infanticide “Madness”?

Journal of Medical Ethics 39:5 (May 2013).
As Charles Camosy observes, he and I agree more than we disagree. He believes with no less conviction than I do that deliberately killing infant children is profoundly morally wrong and a grave violation of human rights.1 So where do we disagree? I think that… More

Infanticide and madness

Journal of Medical Ethics 39:5 (May 2013).
I am, of course, aware that infanticide was accepted and practiced in ancient Greece and Rome, and is still practiced (usually secretly, with winks and nods from public authorities, and with guilty denials by those who perform the killings and those officials… More

The Sanctity of Life, Even in a Test Tube

Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2013.
Sir Robert Edwards, the Nobel Prize-winning British “test tube baby” pioneer who died last week at age 87, devoted his career to developing in vitro fertilization as a technique to enable women afflicted with certain forms of infertility to… More

Ruling to Serve

First Things, April 2013.
Those of us who are citizens of liberal democratic regimes do not refer to those who govern as “rulers.” It is our boast that we rule ourselves. We prefer to speak of those who govern as public servants, but the extraordinary prestige and trappings… More

Marriage and Politics

National Review, February 11, 2013.
In our new book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, we make a rational case for the historic understanding of marriage as a conjugal relationship — a union of a man and a woman at every level (mind, heart, and body), inherently oriented to family… More

Natural Law

– In the International Encyclopedia of Ethics (John Wiley and Sons, 2013), with Christopher Tollefsen.
Abstract: Natural law ethics forms a distinctive family of ethical theories, all of which take the human good, or human well-being, as central to their theoretical approach. After a period of diminishing influence following the Enlightenment, during which… More

Religious liberty and the human good

International Journal of Religious Freedom 5:1 (2012).
Abstract: “Religious liberty and the human good” is a defense of a robust conception of the obligations of governments to respect and protect religious freedom for the sake of the basic human right of religion itself, considered as an irreducible… More

Marriage or Friendship?

Touchstone, January-February 2012, with Gregory J. Mansour.
No one should be against true friendship, whether friends are of the same sex or opposite sexes. Friendships are good, and they can be very deep and fulfilling. The ideal of friendship as a union of hearts and minds in which each one loves the other’s good… More

Does Sex Ed Undermine Parental Rights?

– New York Times, October 18, 2011, with Melissa Moschella.
IMAGINE you have a 10- or 11-year-old child, just entering a public middle school. How would you feel if, as part of a class ostensibly about the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, he and his classmates were given “risk cards” that graphically named a… More

What is Marriage?

Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 34:1 (Winter, 2010), with Sherif Girgis and Ryan T. Anderson.
What is marriage? Consider two competing views: Conjugal View: Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children… More

Academic Freedom and What It Means Today

– In Roger Scruton (ed.), Liberty and Civilization: The Western Heritage (Encounter Books, 2010). Originally published as "Academic Freedom and the Liberal Arts" in The American Spectator 41:7 (September 2008).
When the flower children and anti-war activists of the 1960s came to power in the universities, they did not overthrow the idea of liberal arts education. In a great many cases, they proclaimed themselves true partisans of liberal arts ideals. True, many… More

Solomonic Wisdom

National Review, August 16, 2010, with Matthew J. Franck.
n June 28, the Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings on Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination. On the same day, the Court announced its decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The coincidence was appropriate, because there was a striking… More

God and Gettysburg

First Things, August 2010.
The Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and the Constitution of the United States of America”those were the three texts in the blue pamphlet I found on the table in front of me as I took my seat at a conference at Princeton. On the cover… More

Business and Family in a Decent and Dynamic Society

– In Samuel Gregg and James R. Stoner, Jr. (eds.), Profit, Prudence and Virtue:  Essays in Ethics, Business and Management (St. Andrews Studies in Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2009). Also published in Rethinking Business Management (The Witherspoon Institute, 2008).

Not a Victimless Crime

National Review, August 10, 2009, with Donna Hughes.
iny Rhode Island prides itself on its history and charm. But since it decriminalized prostitution in 1980, it has become a haven for something decidedly uncharming: the trafficking of girls and young women into the commercial sex industry. There is a lesson… More

Gay Marriage, Democracy, and the Courts

Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2009.
Excerpt: We are in the midst of a showdown over the legal definition of marriage. Though some state courts have interfered, the battle is mainly being fought in referenda around the country, where “same-sex marriage” has uniformly been rejected, and in… More

What Marriage Is—And What It Isn’t

First Things, August 2009.
Everyone agrees that marriage, whatever else it is or does, is a relationship in which persons are united. But what are persons ? And how is it possible for two or more of them to unite? The view typically (if often unconsciously) held by advocates of liberal… More

Embryonic human persons: Talking Point on morality and human embryo research

EMBO Reports 10:4 (April 2009), with Patrick Lee.
If, as we believe, human embryos are human beings who deserve the same basic respect we accord to human beings at later developmental stages, then research that involves deliberately dismembering embryonic humans in order to use their cells for the benefit of… More

He Threw It All Away

First Things, March 2009.
Excerpt: In the early 1970s, Lutheran pastor Richard John Neuhaus was poised to become the nation’s next great liberal public intellectual—the Reinhold Niebuhr of his generation. He had going for him everything he needed to be not merely accepted but… More

The President Politicizes Stem Cell Research

Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2009, with Eric Cohen.
Yesterday President Barack Obama issued an executive order that authorizes expanded federal funding for research using stem cells produced by destroying human embryos. The announcement was classic Obama: advancing radical policies while seeming calm and… More

Natural Law

– In Keith Whittington, R. Daniel Kelemen, and Gregory A. Caldeira (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics (Oxford University Press, 2008).
Abstract: Theories of natural law propose to identify fundamental aspects of human well-being and fulfillment (“basic human goods”), and norms of conduct entailed by their integral directiveness or prescriptivity (“moral norms”). Propositions picking… More

The Nature and Basis of Human Dignity

Ratio Juris 21:2 (June 2008), with Patrick Lee.
Abstract: We argue that all human beings have a special type of dignity which is the basis for (1) the obligation all of us have not to kill them, (2) the obligation to take their well-being into account when we act, and (3) even the obligation to treat them… More

Slouching Towards Gomorrah Revisited

Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 31:2 (March 2008).
Abstract: A literary criticism of the book “Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline,” by Robert H. Bork is presented. It praises the accuracy of the book in describing about the effect of liberal ideology and American… More

Law and Moral Purpose

First Things, January 2008.
The obligations and purposes of law and government are to protect public health, safety, and morals, and to advance the general welfare” including, preeminently, protecting people’s fundamental rights and basic liberties. At first blush, this classic… More

Natural Law

Harvard Law Review 31:1 (2007).
Excerpt: Oliver Wendell Holmes, the legal philosopher and judge whom Richard Posner has, with admiration, dubbed “the American Nietzsche,” established in the minds of many people a certain image of what natural law theories are theories of, and a certain… More

Six Stem Cell Facts

Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2007, with Rev. Thomas V. Berg, L.C. Reprinted in Spanish translation as “Seis Verdades Innegables,” La Gaceta de los Negocias, April 13, 2007.
Americans are divided over the question of whether it is morally acceptable to authorize by law, and fund with taxpayer dollars, research in which human embryos are destroyed. Stating that such research “crosses a moral boundary that our decent society… More

Seeking Consensus: A Clarification and Defense of Altered Nuclear Transfer

Hastings Center Report 36:5 (September-October 2006), with William Hurlbut and Markus Grompe.
Since 1998, when human embryonic stem cellswere first isolated, our nation has been locked ina conflict over federal funding of this new field of scientific research. Both sides in the debate are defending important human goods, and both of these… More

Barring Faith

The Weekly Standard, July 17, 2006, with Gerald V. Bradley
TO FULLY APPRECIATE the wrong headedness of a federal district court’s recent decision expelling a faith-based program from an Iowa prison, it is necessary first to take a backward glance at the history of religious involvement in corrections in the… More

Stem Cells without Moral Corruption

Washington Post, July 6, 2006, with Eric Cohen.
For the past few years many of the world’s leading scientists have promoted so-called therapeutic cloning as the most promising way to produce clinically useful, genetically tailored, biologically versatile stem cells. That is why claims by a team of… More

Restricting Reasons, Attenuating Discourse: Rawls, Habermas, and the Catholic Problem

– In Daniel N. Robinson, Gladys M. Sweeney, and Richard Gill (eds.), Human Nature and Its Wholeness (Catholic University of America Press, 2006). Reprinted with abridgments and additions as “Public Morality, Public Reason,” First Things, November, 2006.
A contest of worldviews in our time pits devout Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and other believers against secularist liberals and those who, while remaining within the religious denominations, have adopted essentially secularist liberal ideas about personal… More

The First Fourteen Days of Human Life

– With Patrick Lee. The New Atlantis, Summer 2006.
Excerpt: In the debate about the moral standing of human embryos, some defenders of embryo-destructive research have claimed that human embryos are not human beings until implantation (i.e., when the embryo attaches to the uterus, approximately six days after… More

Private Acts, Public Interests

First Things, February 2006.
Theorists of public morality “from the ancient Greek philosophers and Roman jurists on” have noticed that apparently private acts of vice, when they multiply and become widespread, can imperil important public interests. This fact embarrasses… More

What Colleges Forget to Teach

City Journal, Winter 2006.
he university is worth fighting for. No other institution can carry the burden of educating our young people. That’s why we must redouble our efforts to restore integrity, civility, and rigorous standards in American higher education—particularly in the… More

Pope John Paul II

– In John Witte and Frank Alexander (eds.), The Teachings of Modern Christianity on Law, Politics, and Human Nature (Columbia University Press, 2006), with Gerard Bradley.

Terri Schiavo: A Right to Life Denied or a Right to Die Honored?

Constitutional Commentary 22:3 (Winter 2005).
There is a spectrum of positions on end of life issues, and on life issues generally. However, a crucial line of division exists between those who affirm, and those who deny, that the life of each human being possesses inherent and equal worth and dignity,… More

A Distinct Human Organism

National Public Radio, November 22, 2005.
The key question in the debate over stem cell research that involves the destruction of human embryos is: When does the life of a human being begin? To answer this question is to decide whether human embryos are, in fact, human beings and, as such, possessors… More

Fetal Attraction

The Weekly Standard, October 3, 2005. Reprinted in Human Life Review 31:4 (Fall 2005); in Spanish translation as “Fabricas de Organos,” La Gaceta de los Negocios (October 2, 2006); and in Rafael Domingo et al. (eds.) Hacia Un Derecho Global (Thomson Publishing Co., 2007).
THE JOURNAL Science late last month published the results of research conducted at Harvard proving that embryonic stem cells can be produced by a method that does not involve creating or destroying a living human embryo. Additional progress will be required… More

The Supreme Court’s Private Life

New York Times, September 18, 2005.
WHEN John Roberts, President Bush’s nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that “the right to privacy is protected under the Constitution in various ways,” some saw this as contradicting… More

The Bad Decision that Started It All

National Review, July 18, 2005, with David L. Tubbs.
Forty years ago, in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down state laws forbidding the sale, distribution, and use of contraceptives on the basis of a novel constitutional doctrine known as the “right to marital… More

Creative Sciece Will Resolve Stem Cell Issues

Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2005, with Markus Grompe. Reprinted in Human Life Review 31:2 (Spring 2005).
The House of Representatives recently passed legislation to loosen President Bush’s restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. The president has promised to veto the bill, however, and the legislation lacks the support of a… More

Independence Day

National Review, May 23, 2005, with Ramesh Ponnuru.
University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein thinks that we are entering a new and “worrisome” phase in the political struggles over the courts: The Right is mounting “a large-scale challenge to judicial independence.” The editors of the… More

The Wrong of Abortion

– In Andrew I. Cohen and Christopher H. Wellman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Applied Ethics (Blackwell Publishers, 2005), with Patrick Lee. Reprinted in Carol Levine (ed.), Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Bioethical Issues, 11th edition (McGraw-Hill Publishers, 2006).
Much of the public debate about abortion concerns the question whether deliberate feticide ought to be unlawful, at least in most circumstances. We will lay that question aside here in order to focus first on the question: is the choice to have, to perform,… More

The Moral Status of the Human Embryo

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 48:2 (Spring 2005), with Alfonso Gómez-Lobo. First published as "Statement of Professor George" in Leon R. Kass (ed.), Human Cloning and Human Dignity: The Report of the President's Council On Bioethics (Public Affairs, 2002), pp. 294-306; and Human Cloning and Human Dignity:  An Ethical Inquiry (The President’s Council on Bioethics, 2002).
The subject matter of Human Cloning and Human Dignity (President’s Council 2002) is the production of a human embryo by means of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) or similar technologies. Just as fertilization, if successful, generates a human… More

Dualistic Delusions

First Things, February 2005, with Patrick Lee.
Disputes about metaphysical issues rarely make the newspapers. The ancient argument about the nature and identity of the human person, however, turns out to be highly relevant to issues that contemporary Americans read about, and argue about, every day. As… More

Acorns and Embryos

– With Patrick Lee. The New Atlantis, Fall 2004 - Winter 2005.
Excerpt: The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) recently invited two members of the President’s Council on Bioethics to reflect on the ethics of using embryonic stem cells in biomedical research. Paul McHugh, a professor of psychiatry at… More

Why We Need a Marriage Amendment

City Journal, Autumn 2004, with David L. Tubbs.
When President George W. Bush declared his support for a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, his most vitriolic critics, such as Senator Edward Kennedy, accused him of playing a divisive, mean-spirited… More

Judicial Usurpation and Sexual Liberation: Courts and the Abolition of Marriage

Regent University Law Review 17:1 (Fall 2004). Reprinted as "High Courts and Misdemeanors" in Touchstone 17: 8 (October 2004), and in New Jersey Family Magazine (2005). Reprinted as "Judicial Usurpation: Perennial Temptation, Contemporary Challenge," in Bradley C. S. Watson (ed.), Ourselves and Our Posterity:  Essays in Constitutional Originalism (Lexington Books, 2009).
Judicial power can be used, and has been used, for both good and ill. In a basically just democratic republic, however, judicial power should never be exercised—even for desirable ends—lawlessly. Judges are not legislators. The legitimacy of their… More

Redefining Marriage Away

City Journal, Summer 2004, with David L. Tubbs.
Conservative advocates of same-sex marriage insist that their goal is not a radical alteration of the institution itself. They favor the legal recognition of same-sex partnerships as marriages in order to secure “equal rights,” they say. Their… More

Human Cloning and Embryo Research

Journal of Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 25:1 (2004).
Abstract: The author, a member of the U.S.President’s Council on Bioethics, discusses ethical issues raised by human cloning, whether for purposes of bringing babies to birth or for research purposes. He first argues that every cloned human embryo is a… More

The Unorthodox Liberalism of Joseph Raz

– Revised and expanded in Christopher Wolfe (ed.), Liberalism at the Crossroads, 2nd Edition (Rowman and Littlefield, 2003). Original version published in The Review of Politics 53:4 (Fall 1991). Reprinted in Christopher Wolfe and John Hittinger (eds.), Liberalism at the Crossroads (Rowman & Littlefield, 1994).
Abstract (from The Review of Politics): In The Morality of Freedom, Joseph Raz has challenged the anti-perfectionism of orthodox liberal political theory and proposed an alternative form of liberalism based on perfectionist moral premises. Raz maintain that… More

Lincoln on Judicial Despotism

First Things, February 2003.
After the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Educationordering the desegregation of public schools in Topeka, Kansas, lawsuits promptly were brought to dismantle legally sanctioned segregation in other states. One of these was… More

Would a War in Iraq be Ethically Justified?

The Daily Princetonian, September 19, 2002.
How can we decide if an attack on Iraq in ethically justified? Although the early architects of “just war theory” held that punishing past aggression is among the legitimate purposes of war, modern popes, from Pius XII to John Paul II, have been… More

Oliver Wendell Holmes on Natural Law

Villanova Law Review 48:1 (2002). Reprinted in Regent University Law Review 15:2 (Spring 2002-2003); The Good Society 12:3 (2003); and Jean DeGroot (ed.), Nature in American Philosophy (Catholic University of America Press, 2004).
My dear Laski, Your remark about the “oughts” and system of values in political science leaves me rather cold. If, as I think, the values are simply generalizations emotionally expressed, the generalizations are matters for the same science as… More

Legal Positivism

– In Herbert Kritzer (ed.), Legal Systems of the World (ABC-CLIO, 2002).

Responding Justly to Terrorism

Crisis Magazine, November 1, 2001.
There is no question that our nation will respond with force to the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. What will our response look like if it is shaped by the Catholic understanding of principles of justice in warfare? The first question that… More

The 28th Amendment

National Review, July 23, 2001.
Marriage is so central to the well-being of children-and society as a whole-that it was, until recently, difficult to imagine that it might be necessary to mount a national political campaign to protect the institution from radical redefinition. Yet today it… More

Natural Law and the Constitution Revisited

Fordham Law Review 70:2 (2001).
James Fleming says that I have misinterpreted him on several points. My essay, Fleming’s critique, and my reply to his critique’ are now before the reader. Happily, anyone who is interested in our debate can easily examine these texts and decide… More

On Jurisprudence

Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2001.
The flowering of interest in jurisprudence among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the twentieth century produced a number of outstanding books. The four I discuss in the following paragraphs are, in my judgment, of the deepest and most… More

The Natural Law Due Process Philosophy

Fordham Law Review 69:6 (2001). Reprinted in T. Campbell (ed.), International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory, 2nd Series (Dartmouth Publishing Co. and Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2003).
I am grateful to Joseph Koterski and James Fleming for their comments on my paper. Father Koterski and I agree more than we disagree. Things are the other way with Professor Fleming, so I will devote this response to his comments (though I will not address… More

Reason, Freedom, and the Rule of Law

American Journal of Jurisprudence 46 (2001). Reprinted in the American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and Law 1:1 (Fall 2001), Regent University Law Review 15:2 (2002-2003), Charles W. Dunn (ed.), Faith, Freedom, and the Future:  Religion in American Political Culture (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), The Clarion Review 2 (2004), and Michael  A. Scaperlanda and Teresa Stanton Collet (eds.), Recovering Self-Evident Truths:  Catholic Perspectives on American Law (Catholic University of America Press, 2007).
The idea of law and the ideal of the rule of law are central to the natural law tradition of thought about public (or “political”) order. St. Thomas Aquinas went so far as to declare that “it belongs to the very notion of a people {ad… More

The Clinton Puzzle: Why Do Liberals Love Him So?

Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2000.
Liberals love Bill Clinton; conservatives loathe him. No surprise there, some might say. Yet if one considers any number of things Mr. Clinton has done over the past decade, something of a puzzle emerges. After all, Mr. Clinton brought Trent Lott’s… More

Remembering Robert Casey

First Things, August 2000.
On the morning of his Commonwealth’s 1992 presidential primary, I got a telephone call from Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey, a man whose pro“life record I knew and admired, but whom I had never met. A mutual friend had given him a copy of a talk I… More

A Clash of Orthodoxies: An Exchange

First Things, June/July 2000, with Josh Dever.
I am grateful to Josh Dever for his thoughtful challenge to my essay “A Clash of Orthodoxies.” Professor Dever states candidly his religious views and moral“political commitments: he is an atheist and a liberal. He begins by proposing to defend the… More

The Concept of Public Morality

American Journal of Jurisprudence 45:1 (2000). Reprinted in Craig Steven Titus (ed.), The Person and the Polis (Institute for the Psychological Sciences Press, 2006).
Public morality, like public health and safety, is a concern that goes beyond considerations of law and public policy. Public morals are affected, for good or ill, by the activities of private (in the sense of “nongovernmental”) parties, and such… More

Natural Law and Public Reason

– In Robert P. George and Christopher Wolfe (eds.), Natural Law and Public Reason (Georgetown University Press, 2000), with Christopher Wolfe.
Stephen Macedo, in his Liberal Virtues and in a number of separately published articles, has defended a liberal doctrine of public reason, one which he considers to be in line with John Rawls’s conception. According to Macedo, liberalism asks us to… More

What Can We Reasonably Hope For?

First Things, January 2000.
Anyone gazing into a crystal ball with the aim of divining the future of relations among members of different religious communities in the new millennium would do well to remember how things appeared as recently as 1965. In the euphoria occasioned by the… More

A Clash of Orthodoxies

First Things, August 1999.
A few years ago, the eminent Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington published in Foreign Affairs a widely noted article called “The Clash of Civilizations.” Looking at contemporary international relations from a geopolitical vantage point, he… More

One Hundred Years of Legal Philosophy

Notre Dame Law Review 74:5 (1999). Reprinted in Brian J. Shanley (ed.), One Hundred Years of Philosophy (Catholic University of America Press, 2001), and as “What is Law? A Century of Arguments,” in First Things 112 (April 2001).
There is a sense in which twentieth century legal philosophy began on January 8, 1897. On that day, Oliver Wendell Holmes, then a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, spoke at a ceremony dedicating the new hall of the Boston University… More

Religious Values and Politics

– In Francis A. Eigo (ed.), Religious Values at the Threshold of the Third Millennium (Villanova University Press, 1999), with William Saunders.

Reflections on the Ethics of Representing Clients Whose Aims Are Unjust

South Texas Law Review 40:1 (Spring 1999).
Sometimes it is possible for lawyers to represent clients whose aims are unjust without willing the injustice of their clients’ aims.For example, generally speaking, someone who is guilty of a crime ought, as a matter of justice, to confess to having… More

Kelsen and Aquinas on “The Natural Law Doctrine”

– In Georges Mazur (ed.), Hans Kelsen: A Twenty-Five Year Commemoration (Semenenko Foundation, 1999). Reprinted in Notre Dame Law Review 75:5 (August 2000); John Goyette, Mark S. Latkovic, and Richard S. Myers (eds.), St. Thomas Aquinas and the Natural Law Tradition (Catholic University of America Press, 2004). Reprinted in Spanish translation (“El Tribunal de la Teoria Pura”) in Persona y Derecho, Vol. “Cambio Social y Transicion Juridica” (2000).
The fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Hans Kelsen’s influential essay, The Natural-Law Doctrine Before the Tribunal of Science, provides an occasion to revisit a work in which the leading European legal theorist of the twentieth century… More

Abusive Power

National Review, November 9, 1998, with William C. Porth.

Judicial Review and the Religion Clauses: A Response to Professor Greenawalt

Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review 32:1 (November 1998).
At the heart of Professor Greenawalt’s understanding of the religion clauses is the idea that individuals and minorities need, and are entitled to, the protection of courts exercising fairly broad discretion to invalidate, or exempt members of minority… More

Marriage and the Illusion of Moral Neutrality

– In T. William Boxx and Gary Quinlivan (eds.), The Political Order and Culture: Towards the Renewal of Civilization (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998). Reprinted in Christopher Wolfe (ed.), Homosexuality and American Public Life (Spence Publishing Co., 1998); Kenneth D. Whitehead (ed.), Marriage and the Common Good (St. Augustine’s Press, 2001); Francis Beckwith (ed.), Do the Right Thing (Wadsworth/Thompson Learning, 2001); and Lynn D. Wardle, Mark Strasser, and David Orgon Coolidge (eds.), Marriage and Same Sex Unions (Praeger, 2003).

Justice, Legitimacy, and Allegiance

Loyola Law Review 44:1 (1998). Reprinted in Mitchell Muncy (ed.) The End of Democracy II:  A Crisis of Legitimacy (Spence Publishing Co., 1998); and in Sotirios Barber and Robert P. George (eds.) Constitutional Politics:  Essays on Constitution Making, Maintenance, and Change (Princeton University Press, 2001).

On the Supreme Court’s 1996-97 Term

First Things, October 1997.
The first key decision of the Supreme Court’s most recent term was Agostini v. Felton, handed down June 23, 1997, concerning the proper interpretation and application of the First Amendment’s prohibition of laws “respecting an establishment of… More

Making Children Moral: Pornography, Parents, and the Public Interest

Arizona State Law Review 29 (Summer 1997). Reprinted in T. Campbell (ed.), International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory, 2nd Series (Dartmouth Publishing Co. and Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2003).
On two occasions in October of 1965, Sam Ginsberg, proprietor of Sam’s Stationery and Luncheonette in Bellmore, New York, sold magazines containing photographs of nude women to a sixteen-year-old boy. Ginsberg was tried in state court and convicted of… More

Law, Democracy, and Moral Disagreement

Harvard Law Review 110:7 (May 1997).
Reviewed Works: Democracy and Disagreement: Why Moral Conflict Cannot Be Avoided in Politics, and What Should Be Done about It by Amy Gutmann, Dennis Thompson; Legal Reasoning and Political Conflict by Cass R. Sunstein

Natural Law and Liberal Public Reason

American Journal of Jurisprudence 42:1 (January 1997), with Christopher Wolfe.
As the century winds to a close, John Rawls remains a–perhaps the–central figure in Anglo-American political philosophy. In his 1993 book, Political Liberalism, Rawls reformulated, and in certain respects revised, the liberal theory of political… More

The Tyrant State

First Things, November 1996. Reprinted in Mitchell S. Muncy (ed.), The End of Democracy? The Judicial Usurpation of Politics (Spence Publishing, 1997).
America’s democratic experiment has been remarkably successful. Constitutional democracy in the United States has survived a civil war, a great depression, and two world wars. Our nation has assimilated into the mainstream of American life generations of… More

Natural Law Ethics

– In Philip L. Quinn and Charles Taliaferro (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Religion (Blackwell Publishers, 1996).
Natural law is the body of moral norms and other practical principles which provide reasons (including moral reasons) for action and restraint. The most basic precepts of natural law direct people to choose and act for intelligible ends and purposes. These… More

Vices Here and Abroad

Boston Review, October/November 1996.
Yael Tamir states that her purpose in “Hands Off Clitoridectomy” is “to reveal the smug, unjustified self-satisfaction lurking behind the current condemnation of clitoridectomy.” Although she makes plain her own strong opposition to… More

Natural Law and Positive Law

– In Robert P. George (ed.), The Autonomy of Law:  Essays on Legal Positivism (Oxford University Press, 1996). Reprinted in David McLean (ed.), Common Truths:  New Perspectives on the Natural Law (ISI Books, 1999); in Aileen Kavanagh and John Oberdiek, Arguing about Law (Routledge, 2009); and in Spanish translation in Persona y Derecho 39 (1998).

Natural Law and International Order

– In Terry Nardin (ed.), The Constitution of International Society (Princeton University Press, 1996). Reprinted in Kenneth Grasso, et al. (eds.), Catholicism, Liberalism, and Communitarianism (Rowman and Littlefield, 1995).

The New Abortion Debate

First Things, April 1996.
Over the last few months, certain intellectuals on both sides of the debate over abortion have publicly expressed newfound doubts about their side’s positions and tactics. Notable defenders of the abortion license, such as Naomi Wolf, have conceded that… More

Rule by Law

National Review, February 26, 1996, with Ramesh Ponnuru.

The New Natural Law Theory: A Reply to Jean Porter

American Journal of Jurisprudence 39 (1994), with Gerard Bradley.
The theory of practical reasoning and morality proposed by Germain Grisez, and developed by him in frequent collaboration with John Finnis and Joseph Boyle, is the most formidable presentation of natural law theory in this century. Although work by Finnis and… More

On Veritas Splendor

First Things, January 1994.
Not long ago, I was brought up short by the redoubtable Janet Smith when I complained that students come to college these days already fully indoctrinated into moral relativism. “Ask them,” she suggested, “whether in their opinion it is ever right to… More

Religious Liberty and Political Morality

– In Stephen Krason and Donald D'Elia (eds.), We Hold These Truths and More: Reflections on the American Proposition (University of Steubenville Press, 1993).

Can Sex Be Reasonable?

Columbia Law Review 93:3 (April, 1993).
In his Introduction to Sex and Reason, Richard A. Posner says that his “ambition is to present a theory of sexuality that both explains the principal regularities in the practice of sex and in its social, including legal, regulation and points the way… More

The Moral Fragility of Constitutionalism

First Things, January 1993.
Excerpt: In this collection of characteristically brilliant essays, Harvey C. Mansfield Jr., one of our nation’s most eminent conservative political theorists, defends the American Constitution as “the most glorious product of modern political science and… More

Natural Law and Human Nature

– In Robert P. George (ed.), Natural Law Theory: Contemporary Essays (Oxford University Press, 1992). Reprinted in Spanish translation in Anuario de Filosofia Juridica y Social 20 (2000).

Academic Freedom: The Grounds for Tolerating Abuses

– In Ralph McInerny (ed.), Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute Vol. 4 (Ignatius Press, 1992).
We are all familiar indeed, all too familiar with abuses of academic freedom. Consider, for example, the following two cases. A controversy currently raging in this city of controversies concerns a City University of New York (CUNY) professor named Leonard… More

Judges and Natural Law

Washington Post, August 12, 1991.
Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas has expressed a belief in natural law and natural rights. In the overheated, brightly lit arena of Supreme Court politics, that simple allegiance has caused consternation at both ends of the political spectrum. Some… More

Conscience and the Public Person

– In Russell E. Smith (ed.), Catholic Conscience: Foundation and Formation (Pope John XXIII Medical-Moral Research Center, 1991).

Where Babies Come From

First Things, October 1990.
Excerpt: Recent reports from a French laboratory contain some good news and some bad news for the prochoice movement. The good news is that abortion is not the taking of human life. Studies conducted by the French geneticist Jacques “Mad Jack” Junot of… More

Social Cohesion and the Legal Enforcement of Morality

American Journal of Jurisprudence 35:1 (1990).
IN SEPTEMBER OF 1957, THE COMMITTEE on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, chaired by Sir John Wolfenden, issued its Report recommending to the British Parliament that “homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a… More

Individual Rights, Collective Interests, Public Law, and American Politics

Law and Philosophy 8:2 (August, 1989). Reprinted in Tom Campbell (ed.), International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory (Dartmouth Publishing Co. and NYU Press, 1991); and as “Natural Law, the Common Good, and American Politics,” in William E. May and Kenneth D. Whitehead (eds.), The Battle for the Catholic Mind (St. Augustine’s Press, 2001).

Human Flourishing as a Criterion of Morality: A Critique of Perry’s Naturalism

Tulane Law Review 63:6 (June, 1989). Reprinted in Tom Campbell (ed.), International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory (Dartmouth Publishing Co. and NYU Press, 1991).
In Morality, Politics, and Law, Michael Perry adumbrates a “naturalist” account of moral knowledge. According to Perry, such knowledge is “primarily about what sort of person a particular human being ought to be — what projects she… More

Recent Criticism of Natural Law Theory

University of Chicago Law Review 55:4 (Fall, 1988). Reprinted in Tom Campbell (ed.), International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory (Dartmouth Publishing Co. and NYU Press, 1991).