Next university corrupted by Templeton: Stanford

Well, Templeton has got its sticky fingers into Cambridge and Oxford Universities in the UK, and now it begins its insidious incursions into American universities. It’s long given big grants to individual professors or groups of professors in this country, but now it’s founding programs and clinics that, unlike grants, tend to go on for years.  These programs will, of course, always meet Templeton’s aim of supporting religion.

As the January 21 issue of the New York Times reports (how did I miss this?):

Backed by two conservative groups, Stanford Law School has opened the nation’s only clinic devoted to religious liberty, an indication both of where the church-state debate has moved and of the growth in hands-on legal education.

Begun with $1.6 million from the John Templeton Foundation, funneled through the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the school’s new Religious Liberty Clinic partly reflects a feeling that clinical education, historically dominated by the left’s concerns about poverty and housing, needs to expand.

“The 47 percent of the people who voted for Mitt Romney deserve a curriculum as well,” said Lawrence C. Marshall, the associate dean for clinical legal education at Stanford Law School. “My mission has been to make clinical education as central to legal education as it is to medical education. Just as we are concerned about diversity in gender, race and ethnicity, we ought to be committed to ideological diversity.”

Curiously, Marshall is a liberal, well known for his work against the death penalty and for judicial reform.  So is there already a Democratic law clinic at Stanford devoted to church-state separation? Not that I know of, but enlighten me if I’m wrong.  As one would expect from a Templeton-funded enterprise, the new clinic will defend freedom of religion, but only for beleaguered faiths—they’re not looking to defend the entire wall of separation between religion and government.

The clinic’s students, who began this month, are taking cases focused on free expression of religion — representing Seventh-day Adventists who were fired by FedEx for refusing to work on Saturdays, a Jewish convert in prison whose request to be circumcised was rejected and a Muslim group that was told its plan to build a mosque violated land-use laws.

They will avoid the other side of the issue — challenging government endorsement of faith. This includes crèches in public squares, prayer sessions at public events, and cases tied to believers’ rejection of gay rights (a Christian photographer refusing to shoot a same-sex wedding) and elements of the new health care law (a business owner refusing to cover contraceptives for employees).

“In framing our docket, we decided we would represent the believers,” said James A. Sonne, the clinic’s founding director, explaining that the believers, rather than governments, were the ones in need of student lawyers to defend them. “Our job is religious liberty rather than freedom from religion.”

Defending beleaguered faiths is fine, but if the clinic refuses to defend atheists whose “religious freedoms” (i.e., the freedom to be free from religious coercion) are also abrogated, or, say, Jews who object to a public crèche, then it’s a blatantly pro-faith move.  The Constitution protects everyone, not just religious people, from government-sponsored discrimination. As far as I know, other “liberal” organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, deals with both types of cases.

Leading conservative scholars across the country welcomed the opening of the clinic as a breakthrough in elite legal education. Stephen L. Carter of Yale Law School hailed it as a “milestone,” Philip Hamburger of Columbia Law called it a “blessing,” and Thomas F. Farr of Georgetown University called it “corner turning.”

But not everyone is so enthusiastic. Catherine Baylin, a third-year law student and doctoral candidate in history at Stanford, said the way the clinic’s work was being pitched echoed the way conservative Christians frame the debate — and liberal students, she said, are concerned.

The article lists other clinics at Stanford Law School, including those dealing with environmental law, immigrants’ rights, criminal rights, but the article doesn’t list any clinics that reinforce the Constitutional separation of church and state. Because of that, secularists have objected.

Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he was “shocked that a major law school would accept a gift from Becket,” which he described as “a group that wants to give religious institutions or individuals a kind of preferential treatment, even if that hurts a third party.”

And this statement gives away the store:

But Hannah C. Smith of Becket, who took part in a panel discussion here on Monday to observe the clinic’s opening, said what liberals like Mr. Lynn call the strict wall of separation is found nowhere in the Constitution. Her group, she said, is working to show that “there are certain God-given rights that existed before the state. God gave people the yearning to discover him. Religious freedom means we have to protect the right to search for religious truth free from government intrusion.”

Smith is wrong, and the courts have always interpreted her stance as wrong.  Becket’s statement, concentrating as it does on fictitious “God-given rights,” truly reveals what this clinic is about: enabling religion in America.

I’m in favor, of course, of defending the rights of oppressed religious people to practice their faith. But I’m also in favor of defending those without faith against the public incursion of religion, or the faithful against incursions of different faiths. The mandate of the Templeton-funded clinic funds the first enterprise but not the other two. It’s a blatant attempt to buttress one side of the church-state wall but not the other.

Had I been the folks at Stanford, I would not have accepted this money unless it included a stipulation that the clinic would defend not only oppressed religious people, but the non-religious (or aggrieved religious people) against public expressions of religion. For that’s what the Constitution really says about how faith should be treated in the U.S.

Cui bono? Religion.

h/t: Hos


  1. komponist1
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    I can’t say that I’m at all surprised; appalled, but not surprised. After all, Stanford harbors the Hoover Institution, a noted conservative think tank, and the esteemed wingnut Condoleezza Rice is a “respected” faculty member there. The way I see it, it’s just more of the same at Stanford. A pity, really.

  2. Kevin Alexander
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    I’m curious to know what the students could possibly learn there. It’s not as if the school will teach that rights are god given because that question has been settled already. The only right that religion has ever granted was the right to obey the purveyors of whatever god was invented to enrich the grifters who are running the scam.

    • TheBlackCat
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      The objective is to un-settle the issue, or rather re-settle it in the way they want. That is one of the primary goals of the Templeton foundation.

  3. Posted March 10, 2013 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Can’t convince people, then buy them off.

  4. Posted March 10, 2013 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    This is part of a frightening assault on academic freedom by the wealthy. And not only regarding religion. I have read (does anyone have details?) of economics professors being vetted by donors for their adherence to free market orthodoxy.

    The excuse is almost worse than the offense; equating an electoral vote with a particular take on religion. And one can guess what would happen to a Seventh Day Adventist (or indeed practicing Jewish) employee of Bain Capital who refused to work on Saturdays.

  5. George
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately, Jerry’s employer and my alma mater is not clean –

    • Mary Canada
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      I’m currently taking a university course called Positive Psychology. It’s a fairly new area within the field and where the religious are pushing their fairy tales and morality. Most of the evidence is anecdotal and reeks of woo.

  6. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    “Our job is religious liberty rather than freedom from religion.”

    Fail right there, it is freedom of religion, making everybody happy (unless they are theocratic) vs someone suffers.

    But maybe it is an idea too old, enlightened, moral, and well tested.

    representing Seventh-day Adventists who were fired by FedEx for refusing to work on Saturdays,

    If your religion makes you unfit for some particular job and legible for firing to free you to seek available employment, how is it “free expression” to constrain the job or make special jobs for different employee groups?

    Especially ironic an idea seeing espoused, considering their free [job] market supporters.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      I should add that I believe “free expression” is by necessity only free in private.

      If your religion says you should throw feces at everyone, say, you won’t be allowed your expression. So public expression has to be accommodated, under free speech, free markets (for religious properties), et cetera.

  7. Notagod
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Most disturbing to me is that the christian’s templeton foundation actually practices a downgraded set of morals and ethics that are far below the morals and ethics supported by non-christian organizations.

    Bringing discriminatory objectives into the practice of law is not helpful to P. Hitchens’s delusion that christianity is helping to keep societies from fracturing. It isn’t surprising that people that think their existence on earth is a short temporary obligation, don’t give a damned god what happens to their grandchildren and the future inhabitants of the planet.

  8. JB
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Public “mission statements” notwithstanding, the primary mission of Stanford University is to maintain and enhance the Stanford endowment. (Stanford is not unique among private universities in this regard.) Accepting this grant is wholly within that mission.

    • Jeff D
      Posted March 10, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Maintaining (and, when possible, enlarging) the university’s endowment is certainly an important objective for any university like Stanford, but from the perspectives of state law and federal income tax law (maintaining 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status), Stanford has to do more than that. The mission of providing high-quality post-secondary education is paramount; without that mission, Standford could not maintain its tax-exempt status, unless it were to adopt some other charitable / educational / religious / scientific mission as its nonprofit purpose (e.g., turn itself into a church or a soup kitchen). Maintaining an endowment is not a “mission” in the charitable or tax-exempt sense, divorced from the purposes for which endowment exists and for which the generated income is spent.

  9. abandonwoo
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    “… there are certain God-given rights that existed before the state. God gave people the yearning to discover him. Religious freedom means we have to protect the right to search for religious truth free from government intrusion.”

    I did not realize until just now how the state (America) has denied people the right to yearn for God since its inception.

    I bet there is infringement of academic freedom inherent in this particular instance of abuse, as well.

    Are Peter Hitchens’ fingerprints to be found here?

  10. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Her group, she said, is working to show that “there are certain God-given rights that existed before the state. God gave people the yearning to discover him…

    I have to wonder how she hopes to show that, what with God’s very existence being so unevidenced.

    • derekw
      Posted March 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Maybe she showed them a copy of the Declaration of Independence…

  11. Diane G.
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    What BS. Funny how ‘those who voted for Romney’ generally resent any other sort of political meddling in academia.

  12. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted March 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Just as we are concerned about diversity in gender, race and ethnicity, we ought to be committed to ideological diversity.

    Why? Unlike gender, race, and ethnicity, ideology is a choice with ethical consequences. We ought to be committed to promoting ethically defensible ideologies and opposing indefensible ones, even if that results in less ideological diversity.

  13. gerdien
    Posted March 11, 2013 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    The protestant Free University at Amsterdam has got 2.4 million euro to start the ‘
    Abraham Kuyper Center for Science and Religion’. The money goes to the project ‘Science beyond Scientis, including 4 PhD positions. The director is professor René van Woudenberg, well known as an ID sympathizer.



%d bloggers like this: