“Murderabilia Inc.: Where the First Amendment Fails Academic Freedom,” South Atlantic Quarterly 108_4, Fall 2009 (with Catherine Prendergast).
In this piece we argue that the commonplace justification of academic freedom, described in terms of professional norms and practices of the professoriate, often cites advancing the public interest in knowledge creation as a key basis for academic freedom. Yet the public’s role remains underspecified, its interests loosely defined, and increasingly imagined as opposite the professoriate in this justification. Using the example of the U.S. government’s effort to control and ultimately destroy the archived papers of convicted murderer and former professor Theodore Kaczynski through a “murderabilia” auction, we explore the relationship between the public’s freedom of inquiry and access to information on the one hand and academic freedom of the professoriate on the other. We argue that the public’s broad, yet poorly recognized, freedom of inquiry under the First Amendment is in some ways analogous to the academic freedom of faculty described by application of professional norms. While we seek to clarify the boundary between these freedoms, we argue that they can be mutually reinforcing to the benefit of both academics and the broader public. We conclude that more is to be gained by such rethinking of the relationship of the public to academic freedom, than by the current attempts to refine the professoriate’s position in the corporate hierarchy of the university.
“Religion in the Workplace and the Problem of the First Amendent” in Religion, Politics, and American Identity: New Directions, New Controversies, (eds) David S. Gutterman and Andrew R. Murphy (Lexington Books, 2006).
In this essay I argue that a number of conflicts in the workplace over religious expression are often inappropriately made according to the framework and rules of First Amendment free exercise claims when they involve, instead, issues of sexual harassment and discrimination in employment. A better framework for these conflicts recognizes a diversity of values, beliefs, and interests present in a workplace environment including corporate objectives, workers’ safety, productivity, comfort, respect, and religious practices. While some employees wrongly make absolutist claims, it would be similarly wrong for their employers to dismiss their claims out of hand or fail to make an effort to accommodate their beliefs. Corporate policies should take seriously the plurality of values present in the workplace and attempt to resolve conflicts between these values. As long as employees misunderstand their religious freedom claims in terms of the First Amendment, however, even well intentioned, serious attempts to reach accommodation or compromise will fail.