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Fall 2024 Course

Constitutional Law: First Amendment

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: Any-Day Take-Home

This is one of the basic courses in the field. It addresses the Freedom of Speech, the Free Exercise of Religion and the Establishment Clause.

Because constitutional law is always (at least potentially) in motion, this class will feature its development through time, structured and animated by internal conflicts and by momentous shifts in its politics and society.  Interweaving issues of free speech and religion, and concentrating on the last fifty years, we’ll go on to speculate about future developments amid crises set off by the internet, political polarization and the implosion of democratic traditions and institutions.

The aim will be to explore constitutional argument, its variety of modes and moves, and equip students to make it from any point of view.  Specifically (hubristically) my aim will be to empower them to “win” any constitutional argument they join.  I’ll make my own viewpoint clear, but not so as to indoctrinate or even convince, but to provoke self-education. 

In class, there will be anonymous polling and occasional cold calling with a pass option, but mostly voluntary discussion.  If there are under 50 students, a few grades may be raised in cases of excellent participation in class discussions.