Paul L. Caron
Dean





Sunday, December 10, 2023

WSJ Exhibition Review: God And Mammon At The Morgan Library

Wall Street Journal, Religion and Riches at the Morgan Library:

God and Mammon take center stage in two exquisite exhibits at the Morgan Library. “Morgan’s Bibles: Splendor in Scripture” highlights the collector’s devotion to the Bible and his Episcopal faith as manifested in a sumptuous selection from his library’s holdings. “Medieval Money, Merchants, and Morality” conjures the theological duel for the soul between conflicting claims of faith and wealth. Seen in succession, the exhibits seem to be in conversation with each other—and perhaps with J.P. Morgan himself.

Gutenberg Bible“Morgan’s Bibles” provides a mini-timeline of the Bible, going back to its pre-history in the form of an ancient clay tablet whose Akkadian cuneiform script details the story of the deluge as recounted in the ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. The story was later recapitulated in Genesis; but this fragment, dating from 1646-26 B.C., is older than any known biblical text. ...

Only one of Morgan’s three Gutenberg Bibles is on display, this one showing the printer’s marks and corrections. ... The exhibit also chronicles Morgan’s passion for collecting and acquiring. We learn that the three Rembrandt prints on view (among them, the luminous “The Hundred Guilder Print” that depicts Christ preaching and enacting various other scenes from the Gospel of Matthew) represent a small fraction of the roughly 400 Rembrandt prints that Morgan owned. We also see the 1909 invoice for Morgan’s purchase en masse of a British collection containing about 1,500 prints and drawings, many of them from the Italian Renaissance and from the Netherlands in the 1600s.

These habits serve as a natural segue to “Medieval Money, Merchants, and Morality,” which documents, in a wealth of masterpieces (many from the Morgan collection), the ethical dilemma that pervaded Medieval Europe: Can the possession of material riches be reconciled with spiritual grace?

Continue reading

December 10, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Universities Must Preserve American Values: Freedom, Faith And Self-Governance — Leavened With Humility

The Messenger Op-Ed: Universities Must Preserve American Values, by Jim Gash (President, Pepperdine University):

It seems every week produces another story of intolerance, hate, or worse on college and university campuses across the nation. As society rightfully expresses concern about students engaged in such behavior, it is past time for higher education administrators to take on their responsibility to cultivate academic communities that embody America’s founding virtues.

The Founders’ idea was truly revolutionary: citizens from all walks of life, religions, and political persuasions mutually submitting themselves not to the authority of a king or queen, but to the rule of law. The strength of this idea is rooted in a people who so valued the rule of law that they would even die to protect the freedoms established in the Constitution.

Our Founders believed that freedom, faith and self-governance — leavened with humility — are interwoven and indispensable foundational values upon which a pluralistic and enduring society can flourish. More than any institutions, perhaps other than the family and houses of worship, our schools are responsible for cultivating the character and resilience required of a productive citizenry capable of reaffirming the American experiment.

At Pepperdine University, which I lead, character formation is at the heart of our mission. It is why we are passionate about what our students learn. But we are even more focused on who they are becoming. James Phinney Munroe, an MIT scholar who was successful in business, leadership and education, perhaps said it best: “The question to be asked at the end of an educational step is not, ‘What has the student learned?’ but, ‘What has the student become?'” ...

Our Founders also knew the value of faith. They had experienced the threats to a free expression of it, and they knew it was a value not only to be held individually, but to be defended collectively. Religious liberty goes hand-in-hand with freedom of thought, speech and viewpoint diversity.

Universities must help students to understand that their value isn’t derived from temporal sources. Dignity and worth are inherent and God-given (the Founders would say “endowed by their Creator”). “Likes” on social media are fleeting and fickle. ...

Continue reading

December 10, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education, Pepperdine Legal Ed | Permalink

Saturday, December 9, 2023

This Week's Ten Most Popular TaxProf Blog Posts

Top Ten 2Legal Education:

  1. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), BigLaw Associate Compensation Soars To $240k for 1st Years, $550k For 8th Years
  2. Law360, Foley & Lardner Is Third Law Firm To Rescind Offer To Incoming Associate Due To Anti-Israel Comments
  3. Tallahassee Democrat, The Case For And Against Keeping Donna Adelson In Jail Before Her Trial In Dan Markel's Murder
  4. New York Times, Why Tax Prof Neil Buchanan And Other Liberal Tenured Professors Are Leaving Florida's Public Universities
  5. Washington Post, Behind The Scenes Of The U.S. News Law School Rankings Boycott
  6. ABA Notice, Rejection of  Golden Gate Law School's Plan To Terminate Its JD Program
  7. New York Times, Nearly Everyone Gets A’s at Yale. Does That Cheapen the Grade?
  8. The Intercept, Harvard Law Review Spikes Commissioned Article On Genocide In Gaza
  9. ABA Notice, George Mason Is Out Of Compliance With Accreditation Standard That Requires Law Schools To Have Sufficient Financial Resources
  10. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), Pepperdine Caruso Law At The Supreme Court

Tax:

  1. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), Listen To Moore v. United States Supreme Court Oral Argument Today
  2. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), Hot Takes On Yesterday's Moore v. United States Supreme Court Oral Argument
  3. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), More Reaction To The Supreme Court Oral Argument In Moore v. United States
  4. Bryan Camp (Texas Tech), Lesson From The Tax Court Repost: Ipse Dixit Cannot Fix It
  5. Joshua Blank (UC-Irvine) & Leigh Osofsky (North Carolina), Democratic Accountability and Tax Enforcement
  6. Allison Christians (McGill) & Tarcísio Magalhães (Antwerp), The Case for Taxing Away Unsustainable Profits
  7. Daniel Hemel (NYU) & Matthew Hamilton (UC-Berkeley), Coordination, Conflict, and the Laws of Time
  8. Jeremy Bearer-Friend (George Washington), Paying For Reparations—How To Capitalize A Multi-Trillion Reparations Fund (reviewed by Blaine Seto (Ohio State) here)
  9. Bradley Joondeph (Santa Clara), Remote Work And State Taxation Of Nonresident Employees
  10. Paul Caron (Dean, Pepperdine), Kristin Hickman Will Not Join The Texas Faculty In January 2024 And Will Remain At Minnesota

Faith

  1. Ross Douthat (New York Times Op-Ed), Conservative Church Critics Of Pope Francis Get Fired, While Progressive Critics Get Sternly Worded Letters 
  2. Law.com, BYU, Catholic, Cumberland, Liberty, Notre Dame, And Pepperdine Deans Support ABA's Proposed Free Speech Accreditation Standard, But Object To Extra Burden Placed On Faith-Based Law Schools 
  3. Anne Lamott (Washington Post Op-Ed), At 33, I Knew Everything. At 69, I Know Something Much More Important. 
  4. Russell Moore (Editor in Chief, Christianity Today), What Does It Profit A Christian To Protect An Institution But Lose Their Soul? 
  5. Joseph Claire (Christianity Today Op-Ed), The Liberal Arts: Truth U, Social Justice U, Or Jesus U?

December 9, 2023 in About This Blog, Faith, Legal Education, Tax, Tax Daily, Weekly Top 10 TaxProf Blog Posts | Permalink

Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Liberal Arts: Truth U, Social Justice U, Or Jesus U?

Christianity Today Op-Ed: The Christian Liberal Arts Tradition Can Appeal to Christians and Non-Christians Alike, by Joseph Claire (Dean, College of Humanities, George Fox University) (adapted from his chapter in The Liberating Arts: Why We Need Liberal Arts Education (2023)):

The Liberating ArtsCollege and university professors in the liberal arts (humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences) are almost entirely left-leaning, liberal, or progressive, and this is especially true among faculty in the humanities and social sciences. The trend is even more pronounced in certain selective schools.

Students who attend liberal arts colleges or universities often adopt more liberal or progressive points of view as a result of their education. ...

Is this phenomenon accidentally related to the demography of the professoriate or somehow intrinsically related to the craft and content of the liberal arts themselves and the culture and atmosphere of the campus? ­

The terms “liberal” and “progressive” represent different political traditions in the West, and, when applied to the liberal arts, represent different approaches to education.

“Liberal” liberal arts education represents a modern vision of an Enlightenment-style view of objective truth pursued by rational and empirical methods. The “progressive” model, on the other hand, is often associated with postmodern visions of education, ones suspicious of privileged categories such as knowledge, truth, and understanding. It aims at dismantling systems of illegitimate power, ensuring equal outcomes, and achieving other goals connected to the mission of social justice.

New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues that these visions of the liberal arts are ultimately incompatible and that universities should choose between the aims of objective truth and social justice. He calls the “liberal” approach “Truth U” and the progressive approach “Social Justice U.” He notes that most major liberal arts institutions in America today have become Social Justice Us by default, owing simply to the makeup of their faculties.

Haidt notes that some religious colleges present themselves as pursuing an entirely different telos, or guiding purpose. As an example, he points to the evangelical Wheaton College, whose mission statement mentions “serv[ing] Jesus Christ and advanc[ing] His Kingdom.” Haidt calls this exceptional case “Jesus U,” but he doesn’t seem to take it seriously, given his commitment to an Enlightenment-style vision of the liberal arts.

Continue reading

December 3, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: Conservative Church Critics Of Pope Francis Get Fired, While Progressive Critics Get Sternly Worded Letters

New York Times Op-Ed:  Pope Francis Tries to Settle Accounts, by Ross Douthat:

Pope Francis 2For years now, Pope Francis’ governance of the Roman Catholic Church has been seemingly designed to drive the church’s conservative and liberal wings ever further apart. Thus the persistent question hanging over his pontificate: How will he hold this thing together?

By opening debate on a wide array of hot-button subjects without delivering explicit changes, he has encouraged the church’s progressives to push the envelope as far as possible, even toward real doctrinal rebellion, in the hopes of dragging him along. At the same time, by favoring the progressives in his personnel decisions and making institutional war on the legacy of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he has pushed conservatives toward crisis, paranoia and revolt.

On both fronts it’s unclear whether the papacy’s weakening authority can pull either group of rebels back. But in the last few weeks we’ve seen a clear attempt to use that authority, a real test of the pope’s ability to keep the church together.

Continue reading

December 3, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

BYU, Catholic, Cumberland, Liberty, Notre Dame, And Pepperdine Deans Support ABA's Proposed Free Speech Accreditation Standard, But Object To Extra Burden Placed On Faith-Based Law Schools

Following up on my previous post, ABA Council Unanimously Votes To Send Law School Free Speech Accreditation Standard To House Of Delegates For Final Approval In February:  Law.com, ABA Council Sends 'Academic Freedom' Proposal to Hpuse of Delegates:

ABA Legal Ed (2023)The Council of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar voted to send Standard 208 to the ABA House of Delegates for concurrence at the ABA Midyear Meeting in February 2024:

Standard 208. ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

(a) A law school shall adopt, publish, and adhere to written policies that protect academic freedom. A law school’s academic freedom policies shall:
(1) Apply to all full and part-time faculty, as well as to all others teaching law school courses;
(2) Apply to conducting research, publishing scholarship, engaging in law school governance, participating in law related public service activities, and exercising teaching responsibilities, including those related to client representation in clinical programs; and
(3) Afford due process, such as notice, hearing, and appeal rights, to assess any claim of a violation of the academic freedom policies.

Continue reading

December 3, 2023 in Faith, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, November 26, 2023

WaPo Op-Ed: At 33, I Knew Everything. At 69, I Know Something Much More Important

Washington Post Op-Ed:    At 33, I Knew Everything. At 69, I Know Something Much More Important., by Anne Lamott (Author, Somehow: Thoughts on Love (2024)):

Somehow 2Today I woke up old and awful in every way. I simultaneously cannot bear the news and cannot turn it off: It’s cobra hypnosis — Gaza, Israel, the shootings in Maine. The world is as dark as a scarab. I have two memorial services on my calendar this week. ...

My body hurt quite a lot when I got out of bed this morning, and I limped around like Granny Clampett for the first hour, until it unseized. Worse, my mind hurt, my heart hurt and I hated almost everyone, except my husband, my grandson and one of the dogs.

I don’t think I could have borne up under all this 20 years ago when I thought I knew so much about life. That was not nearly as much as I knew at 33, which is when we know more than we ever will again. But age has given me the ability to hang out without predicting how things will sort out this time (mostly — depending on how I’ve slept). ...

Continue reading

November 26, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

What Does It Profit A Christian To Protect An Institution But Lose Their Soul?

Russell Moore (Editor in Chief, Christianity Today), What Does It Profit a Christian to Protect an Institution but Lose Their Soul? (adapted from Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America (2023)):

Losing Our ReligionThe late pastor Eugene Peterson, in a letter to his son, also a pastor, wrote that the primary problem for the Christian leader is to take responsibility not just for the ends but also for the “ways and means” by which we guide people to pursue those ends. “The devil’s three temptations of Jesus all had to do with ways and means,” he wrote. “Every one of the devil’s goals was excellent. The devil had an unsurpassed vision statement. But the ways and means were incompatible with the ends.”

As Peterson put it, the discipleship that Jesus calls us to is one “both personally and corporately conducted in which the insides and outsides are continuous. A life in which we are as careful and attentive to the how as to the what.”

This is because, Peterson counseled, “if we are going to live the Jesus life, we simply have to do it the Jesus way—he is, after all, the Way as well as the Truth and Life.” There are no emergency escape clauses from the way of the Cross.

What seems to be popular in this moment is not so much a prosperity gospel as a depravity gospel. In this depravity gospel, appeals to character or moral norms are met not with appeals of “Not guilty!” but with dismissals of “Get real!”

Yet this depravity gospel tries to lure us in. It doesn’t matter if you get to it by adopting it outright, with glee at cruelty and vulgarity, or if it drives you to the kind of cynicism that doesn’t ever expect anything better.

That way lies nihilism. You will find yourself in situations, and you may be in one of those situations already, where you have a responsibility for holding an institution accountable. Maybe it’s simply as a voter. You can just shrug and give your assent to anyone your party tells you to support. That will change you, over time. Maybe it’s as a church member or a part of some denomination or Christian ministry.

Continue reading

November 26, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Christians Can’t Fix The Israel-Hamas War

Christianity Today, Christians Can’t Fix the Israel-Hamas War:

Christianity TodayJesus could end this crisis. His followers almost certainly can’t. ...

We cannot fix this crisis, no matter how faithful, factual, and fervent we are.

This bears saying, I think, for two reasons. One is our modern habit of “awareness,” as in, I am posting this article on Facebook because I want to raise awareness.

On many issues of great import, the reality is most of us can do very little to effect significant change. Sometimes we can give money to a relevant cause. Always we can pray (1 Thess. 5:17) and take care we do not sin in our hearts or our speech as we react to the news (Matt. 5:21–30). But most of us are not scientists who can find a cure for cancer, or politicians who can rewrite American immigration law, or generals who can decide on whom bombs will fall. Our duties to God and neighbor are usually more imminent and mundane, and if God answers our prayers, that is far more God’s work than ours. ...

The other reason is that, as Christians, we rightly have a high opinion of faithfulness and its effects. By faith, God’s people have “administered justice,” “shut the mouths of lions,” and “received back their dead, raised to life again” (Heb. 11). We can be “co-workers in God’s service,” as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, whose faith rests “on God’s power” (1 Cor. 3:9, 2:5). The “prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective,” James taught, reminding us of the story of Elijah—“a human being, even as we are”—whose earnest prayer led to both famine and plenty (5:16­­–18).

[F]aith is not magic, nor is it a guarantee of a happy ending on this side of eternity. It does not always succeed in protecting us or turning others away from evil. ...

Continue reading

November 26, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Thursday, November 23, 2023

WaPo: Why Thomas Jefferson Hated Thanksgiving

Washington Post, Did Thomas Jefferson hate Thanksgiving?:

Thanksgiving didn’t become an annual national holiday until the days of Abraham Lincoln, but at the time of the nation’s founding, religious feasts (and fasts) of thanksgiving were a regular thing. Both the Continental Congress and Gen. George Washington declared days of public thanksgiving during the Revolutionary War after big victories. And in 1779, Virginia’s wartime governor, Thomas Jefferson, signed a proclamation declaring Thursday, Dec. 9, “a day of publick and solemn thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God.”

But decades later, when Jefferson was president, he had turned against thanksgiving proclamations — privately complaining about them before publicly condemning them toward the end of his term. ...

Continue reading

November 23, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

A Wall Street Journal Thanksgiving

Wall Street Journal editorial, The Desolate Wilderness:

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love. ...

This editorial has appeared annually since 1961.

Wall Street Journal editorial, And the Fair Land:

Any one whose labors take him into the far reaches of the country, as ours lately have done, is bound to mark how the years have made the land grow fruitful.

Continue reading

November 23, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, November 19, 2023

NY Times Op-Ed: Atheism, Western Liberalism, UFOs, And Christianity

New York Times Op-Ed:  Where Does Religion Come From?, by Ross Douthat:

Ayaan Hirsi AliAyaan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim critic of Islamic fundamentalism and longtime champion of Enlightenment liberalism, has announced that she now calls herself a Christian — a conversion that she attributes to a twofold realization.

First, that atheistic materialism is too weak a base upon which to ground Western liberalism in a world where it’s increasingly beset and the biblical tradition from which the liberal West emerged offers a surer foundation for her values. Second, that despite the sense of liberation from punitive religion that atheism once offered her, in the longer run she found “life without any spiritual solace unendurable.”

Her essay, not surprisingly, attracted a lot of criticism. Some of it came from Christians disappointed in the ideological and instrumental way that Hirsi Ali framed her conversion, the absence of a clear statement that Christian claims are not merely useful or necessary but true. The rest came from atheists baffled that Hirsi Ali had failed to internalize all the supposedly brilliant atheistic rebuttals to her stated reasons for belief.

I have no criticism to offer. Some sort of religious attitude is essentially demanded, in my view, by what we know about the universe and the human place within it, but every sincere searcher is likely to follow his or her idiosyncratic path. And to set out to practice Christianity because you love the civilization that sprang from it and feel some kind of spiritual response to its teachings seems much more reasonable than hovering forever in agnosticism while you wait to achieve perfect theological certainty about the divinity of Christ.

Continue reading

November 19, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Was Abraham Lincoln A Christian?

Following up on my previous post, Abraham Lincoln’s Use Of The Bible In His Second Inaugural Address:  Christianity Today Book Review:  America’s ‘First Evangelical President’ Might Not Have Been a Christian at All, by Robert Tracy McKenzie (Wheaton College), (reviewing Gordon Leidner, Abraham Lincoln and the Bible (2023) & Joshua Zeitz, Lincoln's God: How Faith Transformed a President and a Nation (2023)):

Lincoln BooksTwo new books probe the mysteries of Abraham Lincoln’s public and private relationship to religion.

If Abraham Lincoln still matters to Americans in the 21st century—and he does—a major reason is that there’s much at stake politically in how we remember him. This is as true of Lincoln’s religious beliefs as for any other part of his life. In a nation deeply divided over the proper role of religion in the public square, it makes a difference whether our greatest president was a religious skeptic or an orthodox Christian, a devotee of Thomas Paine or a disciple of Jesus.

The debate began almost immediately upon his death. Although Lincoln had never joined a church, Christians typically insisted on his devout faith. Although the late president had quoted extensively from the Bible, non-Christians protested that he doubted much of what it said.

Professional historians joined the debate in the first half of the last century, but they haven’t resolved it. There are outliers, but most agree that by the time of his presidency, Lincoln was not an atheist, if he ever had been. Most agree, as well, that he was almost certainly not an orthodox Christian, if by that we mean someone able to assent wholly to one of the major Christian confessions. It’s been difficult to determine beyond this, thanks to limitations in the surviving evidence.

After his death, countless acquaintances claimed intimate knowledge of the state of Lincoln’s soul, but these testimonies are hopelessly contradictory and their objectivity is doubtful. In addition, Lincoln’s voluminous personal papers are characterized by a pervasive, seemingly intentional ambiguity. Lincoln scholars all acknowledge that he used biblical language, but the questions of why he alluded to the Bible and how much of it he believed remain unanswered—and are probably unanswerable. 

And yet we persist in asking these questions, as two major new studies of Lincoln’s religion attest.

Continue reading

November 19, 2023 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

American Christians And The Anti-American Temptation

Russell Moore (Editor in Chief, Christianity Today), American Christians and the Anti-American Temptation:

HorseshoeIf any political idea in American life has proven itself over the past several years, I can’t think of a better candidate than the “horseshoe theory”—the notion that, at their extremes, Left and Right bend toward each other, sometimes as to be almost indistinguishable.

One of the ways we can see this is in a bleak and darkening view of the United States of America. The question is not so much whether extremists of the Right or Left seem to hate America these days as much as it is the question of why. ...

Continue reading

November 19, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Inazu: The Lack Of Clarity And Courage In Higher Education On Hamas And Israel

Following up on last month's post, Personal Statements On Hamas And Israel:  John Inazu (Washington University; Google Scholar), The Lack of Clarity and Courage in Higher Education:

InazuStatements and silence about events in Israel and Gaza.

The day after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill penned an essay in which he referred to the victims of the attack as “little Eichmanns.” Churchill believed that the attacks were a “natural and inevitable” response to longstanding American foreign policy. As reported in The Guardian, he intended “to make the case that even those with innocent roles in a system bear collective responsibility for perpetuating it.” The essay initially went unnoticed but resurfaced in 2005, setting off a firestorm.

Churchill’s claim was offensive and absurd. As a public university employee, his speech was protected under the First Amendment. But outside of a tiny number of progressive voices in higher education, his claim was met with overwhelming critique. Most people recognized its patent moral failure.

One might have thought that last month’s Hamas terrorist attack on Israel would have registered similarly to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Instead, far more voices from progressive corners of higher education mirrored the tone and substance of Churchill’s essay, and fewer institutional leaders forthrightly denounced those voices. ...

Continue reading

November 12, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Brunson: Can Churches Invest Funds Members Give Believing They Will Be Used For Good Works?

Samuel D. Brunson (Loyola-Chicago; Google Scholar), Mormon Lawsuits and Tithing: Can Churches Just Invest Funds Members Believe Are for Charity?:

MormonThree men have filed a lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — also known as the LDS, or Mormon church — and its investment arm, Ensign Peak Advisors Inc. The men, at least one of whom remains an active member of the church, according to the lawsuit, allege that the church had fraudulently induced them into making donations.

LDS church doctrine requires its members to tithe — that is, give 10 percent of their income to the church. Otherwise, members cannot attend or participate in worship in the church’s temples.

As a law professor who studies the financial practices of churches and other tax-exempt organizations, I have seen that it is hard for donors to win a lawsuit against their church — or any other charity — when they demand a refund for their donations.

The lawsuit against the LDS church and Ensign Peak, filed on Oct. 31, 2023, is based on the premise that the church has violated its members’ trust by amassing massive investments in stocks, bonds, real estate, and agriculture that don’t support charitable activities. ...

The church doesn’t disclose details about its finances. It has denied the allegations that it committed fraud with its “sacred funds” or dipped directly into tithed funds or other pools of money received for charitable purposes to make investments. ...

Continue reading

November 12, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education, Tax, Tax Daily | Permalink

Department Of Education Imposes Largest Fine In History On America's Largest Christian College; Was It Targeted By Biden Administration?

Following up on last month's post, Nation's Largest Christian University Says Biden Administration Is Unjustly Targeting It:

Grand Canyon 3U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid Fines Grand Canyon University $37.7 Million for Deceiving Thousands of Students:

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) today announced a $37.7 million fine against Grand Canyon University (GCU), which disbursed the most federal student aid of all participating institutions for the past four award years. An FSA investigation found GCU lied to more than 7,500 former and current students about the cost of its doctoral programs over several years. GCU falsely advertised a lower cost than what 98% of students ended up paying to complete certain doctoral programs.

“GCU lied about the cost of its doctoral programs to attract students to enroll,” said FSA Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray. “FSA takes its oversight responsibilities seriously. GCU’s lies harmed students, broke their trust, and led to unexpectedly high levels of student debt. Today, we are holding GCU accountable for its actions, protecting students and taxpayers, and upholding the integrity of the federal student aid programs.” 

Grand Canyon University Press Release, GCU Categorically Refutes Department of Education's Lies and Deceptive Statements:

Grand Canyon University categorically denies every accusation in the Department of Education’s statement and will take all measures necessary to defend itself from these false accusations.

The Department’s decision to fine Grand Canyon University $37.7 million and impose conditions on its program participation agreement confirms what we previously outlined in this detailed statement and is further evidence of the coordinated and unjust actions the federal government is taking against the largest Christian university in the country. ...

It is clear to us this punitive action by the Department is part of a coordinated and targeted effort of the federal government that also involves the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Veterans Affairs. ...

We are not aware of any other regionally accredited 501(c)(3) nonprofit university receiving this level of coordinated and unwarranted scrutiny. The combination of these scenarios makes it clear to us that GCU is being unjustly targeted in an agenda-driven manner, and it is alarming that individuals within these agencies have unfettered discretion within the federal government to use their positions to attack institutions with whom they are ideologically opposed.

Wall Street Journal Editorial, Biden Regulators Fine a Christian College:

The liberal press frets with some cause that Donald Trump will target his political opponents if he wins the White House in 2024, but why aren’t they bothered by the Biden Administration’s weaponization of government? Consider the Education Department’s record fine last week against Grand Canyon University (GCU).

Continue reading

November 12, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Chodorow: Speaker Mike Johnson Wants To Unleash Ministers On Politics

Following up on last Sunday's post, The Christian Faith Of Speaker Of The House Mike Johnson:  Adam Chodorow (Arizona State; Google Scholar), Mike Johnson Wants to Unleash Ministers on Politics:

Speaker Mike JohnsonIf the new speaker of the House goes after the Johnson Amendment (no relation!), it will be bad for elections and religion.

With the unexpected rise of Mike Johnson to the House speakership, reporters have been delving into his past, focusing in particular on positions he’s taken on topics like abortion, guns, and the 2020 election, as well as his proximity to Donald Trump. Most reporting has commented on Johnson’s conservative Christian beliefs, which at times veer close to Christian nationalism. However, there is an important tax angle. There always is. In this case, it seems almost certain that Johnson will attempt to repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment (no relation!), which bans tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from participating in political campaigns. ...

Continue reading

November 12, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education, Tax, Tax Daily | Permalink

Sunday, November 5, 2023

WSJ Op-Ed: Amazing Grace — A Hymn For The World’s Heart

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  ‘Amazing Grace’ Review: A Hymn for the World’s Heart, by Priscilla M. Jensen (reviewing James Walvin (University of York), Amazing Grace: A Cultural History of the Beloved Hymn (2023)):

“Amazing grace,” intoned the eulogist, and repeated it. He began to sing: “how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,” and the congregation, a bit startled, joined in, as the pianist scrambled to accompany them. The singer was President Barack Obama, who had been addressing mourners at a 2015 memorial service for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and eight parishioners, African-Americans murdered by a white supremacist during Bible study at their Charleston, S.C., church.

This riveting moment introduces James Walvin’s exploration of the past and present of what may be the most widely known Christian hymn in English. Mr. Walvin, an emeritus professor of history at the University of York, encountered the hymn during his study of the Atlantic slave trade, and in “Amazing Grace: A Cultural History of the Beloved Hymn,” he describes its origin, transmission and flourishing survival into the 21st century.

Continue reading

November 5, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

WaPo Op-Ed: It’s Good to Remember — We Are All On Borrowed Time

Washington Post Op-Ed:  It’s Good to Remember: We Are All on Borrowed Time, by Anne Lamott (Author, Somehow: Thoughts on Love (2024)):

Somehow 2Getting older is almost like changing species, from cute middle-aged, white-tailed deer, to yak. We are both grass eaters, but that’s about the only similarity. At the Safeway sushi bar during lunchtime, I look at the teenage girls in their crop tops with their stupid flat tummies and I feel bad about what lies beneath my big, forgiving shirts but — and this is one of the blessings of aging — not for long. Aging has brought a modicum of self-compassion, and acceptance of what my husband and I call “the Sitch”: the bodily and cognitive decline that we all face sooner or later. Still, at Safeway, I can’t help but avert my eyes. Why push my luck?

So many indignities are involved in aging, and yet so many graces, too. The perfectionism that had run me ragged and has kept me scared and wired my whole life has abated. The idea of perfectionism at 60 is comical when, like me, you’ve worn non-matching black flats out on stage. In my experience, most of us age away from brain and ambition toward heart and soul, and we bathe in relief that things are not worse. When I was younger, I was fixated on looking good and impressing people and being so big in the world. By 60, I didn’t care nearly as much what people thought of me, mostly. ...

[B]y a certain age some people beloved to me had died. And then you seriously get real about how short and precious life is. You have bigger fish to fry than your saggy butt. Also, what more can you lose, and what more can people do to you that age has not already done? You thought you could physically do this or that — i.e., lift the dog into the back seat — but two weeks later your back is still complaining. You thought that your mind was thrilling to others, but it turns out that not everyone noticed, and now they’re just worried because your shoes don’t match. ...

Continue reading

November 5, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Vatican Synod Ends With Divide Over Women Deacons And LGBTQ+; 'Catholics Need Answers, Not Questions'

Washington Post, Vatican Synod Ends With Divide Over Women Deacons and LGBTQ+:

Synod CoverDays before the start of the most significant Catholic gathering since the 1960s, Pope Francis dropped a theological bomb. In a reply to conservative bishops concerned about his openness to the LGBTQ+ community, the 86-year-old pope effectively said he could envision priests, on a case-by-case basis, blessing same-sex couples if those benedictions fell short of the sacrament of marriage.

In the subsequent weeks, how and whether to welcome LGBTQ+ Catholics became, according to participants, the most contentious topic at the month-long synod that closed Saturday in Vatican City. Facing opposition from senior clerics from Eastern Europe, Africa, and elsewhere, the wording of a concluding report, with sections approved by at least a two-thirds majority of voting members, fell far short of the inclusive language used earlier by the pope himself.

The document failed to even mention the phrase “LGBTQ+,” as used in preliminary materials. The most it ventured to say was that “people who feel marginalized or excluded from the Church, due to their marital situation, identity and sexuality, also ask to be listened to and accompanied, and that their dignity is defended.”

It also lumps “sexual orientation” under a slew of ethical questions described as “new” and “controversial,” including artificial intelligence.

“We are a family and we must respect everybody’s pace,” Synod General Secretary Cardinal Mario Grech told reporters who questioned the synod’s position on homosexuality and other issues late Saturday. “We must journey together.”

Continue reading

November 5, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

The Christian Faith Of Speaker Of The House Mike Johnson

New York Times, For Mike Johnson, Religion Is at the Forefront of Politics and Policy:

JohnsonThe new House speaker has put his faith at the center of his political career, and aligned himself with a newer cohort of conservative Christianity that some describe as Christian nationalism.

In the moments before he was to face a vote on becoming speaker of the House this week, Representative Mike Johnson posted a photograph on social media of the inscription carved into marble atop the chamber’s rostrum: “In God We Trust.”

His colleagues celebrated his candidacy by circulating an image of him on bended knee praying for divine guidance with other lawmakers on the House floor.

And in his first speech from the chamber as speaker, Mr. Johnson cast his ascendance to the position second in line to the presidency in religious terms, saying, “I believe God has ordained and allowed each one of us to be brought here for this specific moment.”

Mr. Johnson, a mild-mannered conservative Republican from Louisiana whose elevation to the speakership on Wednesday followed weeks of chaos, is known for placing his evangelical Christianity at the center of his political life and policy positions. Now, as the most powerful Republican in Washington, he is in a position to inject it squarely into the national political discourse, where he has argued for years that it belongs. ...

Continue reading

November 5, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Inazu: Learning From Failure

John Inazu (Washington University; Google Scholar), Learning from Failure:

InazuEarlier this month, I highlighted a day I spent with a group of medical professionals at Mayo Clinic. One striking aspect of the formal and informal discussions were references to publicly sharing failures. For example, one medical school holds an annual session where senior physicians share their failure stories, which often resulted in the deaths of patients. At dinner, another physician shared a similar session that takes place at his annual specialty conference.

It occurred to me that other professional circles could probably benefit from their own “failure sessions.”

Last month, Jancee Dunn wrote a New York Times newsletter about failure as a precondition to thriving. Dunn interviewed Amy Edmondson, a professor of leadership at Harvard Business School, who suggested that we can learn from our missteps if we put our failures in context, learn how to pivot, and encourage sharing our failures with others. Dunn adds:

Continue reading

October 29, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Federal Judge: Religious Schools Have The Right To Exemption From State Pronoun Policies

Eugene Volokh (UCLA; Google Scholar), Do Religious Schools Have a Right to Exemption from State's Pronoun Policies?:

PattersonFrom Friday's opinion by Judge Daniel D. Domenico (D. Colo.) in Darren Patterson Christian Academy v. Roy ... :

"[T]he First Amendment protects an individual's right to speak his mind regardless of whether the government considers his speech sensible and well intentioned or deeply misguided and likely to cause anguish or incalculable grief. 303 Creative, LLC v. Elenis (2023). "Generally, too, the government may not compel a person to speak its own preferred messages." Indeed, the Court held in 303 Creativethat Colorado could not compel a wedding-website designer to create websites that did not discriminate on bases similar to those at issue in this case.

In an even more on-point case, the Sixth Circuit held that a public university's requirement that professors use a student's preferred pronouns in the classroom amounted to a Free Speech violation. Meriwether v. Hartop (6th Cir. 2021). That case involved a professor plaintiff at a public university who declined to use a student's preferred pronouns, instead seeking to refer to that student in name only while referring to other students with pronouns corresponding to their biological sex. That plaintiff faced even more obstacles than Plaintiff would here in proving a Free Speech claim given the various doctrines limiting the ability of public-school teachers to bring First Amendment claims. Even still, the Sixth Circuit held that compelling such speech violated the professor's free-speech free exercise rights. [The words "free exercise" seem to have been erroneously included here by the court. -EV]

The Ninth Circuit has also arrived at a similar conclusion in a related context. They held that an Oregon anti-discrimination law requiring a "natural-born-female-only" beauty pageant to allow transgender contestants violated the pageant's expressive free-speech rights. Green v. Miss United States of Am., LLC (9th Cir. 2022). As the Ninth Circuit noted, this accorded with its "long-standing hesitation to enforce anti-discrimination statutes in the speech context."

Given these authorities and Defendants' failure to rebut the substance of this claim at all, the Court finds at this time that Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits of its Free Speech claim at least as to part of its policies. The anti-discrimination provisions at issue here mirror those found in 303 CreativeMeriwether, and Green. And, if applied to Plaintiff in the ways it credibly fears (i.e., at least as to its policy regarding pronoun usage), those anti-discrimination provisions would likely be unconstitutional, as the similar provisions were found to be in the aforementioned cases.

Reuters, Colorado Can't Bar Christian School From Preschool Program Over LGBTQ Stance, Judge Says:

Continue reading

October 29, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

The Surprising Rebirth Of Belief In God: Why New Atheism Grew Old And Secular Thinkers Are Considering Christianity Again

Following up on last Sunday's post, America Doesn’t Need More God. It Needs More Atheists.: Christianity Today, Secular Figures Are Giving Faith a Second Look (reviewing Justin Brierley, The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God: Why New Atheism Grew Old and Secular Thinkers Are Considering Christianity Again (Foreword by N. T. Wright) (2023)):

RebirthOn one recent weekday evening, I was sitting in a circle in a concrete garage praying Compline, a traditional nighttime liturgy, by candlelight. Within our small intentional community in London, we often recite these strange, rhythmic old sentences stitched together from the Psalms.

Our visitors, though, likely found them unfamiliar. Around the flickering flames, I could see a philosopher, a Marxist (and polyamorous) political theorist, a prominent feminist, a historian of ideas, and a columnist for a major magazine. None of them would call themselves Christians, but all had willingly chosen to join this nightly ritual.

Justin Brierley’s new book, The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God, names this phenomenon, which I have experienced for several years: a new openness to spiritual matters among those we might have thought hostile. Brierley, until recently, hosted the long-standing apologetics radio program Unbelievable?, which has welcomed many serious public intellectuals. Having witnessed numerous debates between those inside and outside the church, he reports a dramatic “change in tone and substance.”

A century and a half after the poet Matthew Arnold heard the “long withdrawing roar” of the sea of faith, Brierley opens with a provocative observation: Seas don’t withdraw forever. The tides go out, and then they come back in. Brierley is betting the sea is on the turn.

Continue reading

October 29, 2023 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

BYU Law School’s 50-Year Story: Giving Graduates Courage To Be Religious In The Legal Profession

Deseret News, Part of BYU Law’s 50-Year Story Is Giving Young Lawyers Courage to be Religious in Their Profession:

BYU Law 50On the very first day the law was taught at Brigham Young University in 1973, a professor stood up and said the law is not like a great pitcher of water you drink in law school.

No, the law is like the Atlantic Ocean, and law school teaches you how to navigate that ocean, the professor said, according to Elder Wilford W. Andersen, a member of BYU Law’s charter class and an emeritus General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

For Elder Andersen and many others, BYU Law’s uniqueness is how its professors teach law students to navigate the legal ocean with a rudder constructed from religious faith. ...

Continue reading

October 29, 2023 in Faith, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Personal Statements On Hamas And Israel

April 15, 2024 will mark the 20-year anniversary of TaxProf Blog. In my over 50,000 posts during that time, I have tried to dispassionately share interesting and important news and information on tax and legal education (and, recently on Sundays, faith) from a variety of perspectives (with an occasional post about my family and my law schools). I have continued in that vein with my recent posts (here and here) on whether university presidents and law school deans should issue official statements on events like those on October 7.  

I am the dean of a law school with four Jewish full-time faculty and perhaps the largest cohort of Jewish students among Los Angeles area law schools. One of those professors was in Israel for the High Holidays with his family on October 7 and taught his 1L contracts class remotely from Israel on October 9 in between visits to bomb shelters. On October 11, I attended a moving and overflowing community gathering hosted by our Jewish Law Students' Association and Associate Dean for Student Life and Spiritual Development. On October 18, for the first time in our six years hosting the weekly dinner and Bible study, my wife Courtney and I spoke to the gathered students, staff, and faculty. On October 23, another of our Jewish professors will open our monthly faculty meeting in prayer.

Now, two weeks after October 7, I feel compelled to share my thoughts, not in my capacity as  dean, but as a human being and a Christian horrified by the savagery unleashed by Hamas on that day. My three dear friends on Pepperdine Caruso Law's senior leadership team also welcomed the opportunity to share their personal views as well.

Personal Statement of Paul Caron, Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean and Professor of Law:

Caron Headshot (High Res)The torture and killing of over 1,400 Israeli men, women, children, babies, and elderly (including over 30 Americans) by Hamas is genocidally evil.

I welcome the effort by Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, to enlist presidents and chancellors of all U.S. and global colleges and universities to stand with Israel against the terrorism of Hamas. Signatories include Presidents of Baylor University, University of Notre Dame, and  the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities:

We Stand Together with Israel Against Hamas
We are horrified and sickened by the brutality and inhumanity of Hamas. Murdering innocent civilians including babies and children, raping women, and taking the elderly as hostages are not the actions of political disagreement but the actions of hate and terrorism. The basis of all universities is a pursuit of truth, and it is times like these that require moral clarity. Like the fight against ISIS, the fight against Hamas is a fight against evil. We, the presidents and chancellors of universities and colleges across the United States of America and the world, stand with Israel, with the Palestinians who suffer under Hamas’s cruel rule in Gaza, and with all people of moral conscience.

I am looking forward to hearing President Berman speak at Pepperdine University on October 26 as part of the President's Speaker Series. Rev. Johnnie Moore will moderate the discussion between President Berman and President Gash. As President of the Congress of Christian Leaders, Rev. Moore testified before the EU Parliament on October 11 and urged the EU to stand with Israel against Hamas terrorism.

Richard Haas (President Emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations) has a detailed analysis of the path forward for America in a Saturday Essay in the Wall Street Journal, The Goal for U.S. Diplomacy With Israel: First Calm, Then Peace: With Dangers Rising Across the Middle East, America Needs a Two-Phase Effort to Stabilize the Conflict in Gaza and Resolve Core Israeli-Palestinian Issues. I am looking forward to hearing Mr. Haas speak at Pepperdine University on November 7 as part of the President's Speaker Series

Here is what I said at our October 18 Bible study:

Continue reading

October 22, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

Alvaré: Families, Schools, And Religious Freedom

Helen M. Alvaré (George Mason; Google Scholar), Families, Schools, and Religious Freedom, 54 Loy. U. Chi. L.J. 579 (2023):

Loyola Chicago Law JournalChristian scriptures point to human beings’ ordinary romantic and familial relationships and experiences as likely irreplaceable pathways for glimpsing foundational beliefs about the identity of God, his love for humanity, and how human beings are to love him and one another. In other words, sex, marriage and parenting are an inextricable part of the language of Christian belief, and the very “architecture” of the faith.

Given this conviction about the role played by familial and romantic relations in the understanding and transmission of faith, Christian parents are alarmed to witness widespread repudiation of their familial norms. Sometimes this occurs in the confines of courses regularly denominated “sex-education or “health” or “family life” education, but sometimes it occurs elsewhere in the program of education.

Continue reading

October 22, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink

WaPo Op-Ed: America Doesn’t Need More God. It Needs More Atheists.

Washington Post Op-Ed:  America Doesn’t Need More God. It Needs More Atheists., by Kate Cohen (Author, We of Little Faith: Why I Stopped Pretending to Believe (and Maybe You Should Too) (2023)):

We Of LIttle FaithI like to say that my kids made me an atheist. But really what they did was make me honest.

I was raised Jewish — with Sabbath prayers and religious school, a bat mitzvah and a Jewish wedding. But I don’t remember ever truly believing that God was out there listening to me sing songs of praise.

I thought of God as a human invention: a character, a concept, a carry-over from an ancient time.

I thought of him as a fiction.

Today I realize that means I’m an atheist. It’s not complicated. My (non)belief derives naturally from a few basic observations:

  1. The Greek myths are obviously stories. The Norse myths are obviously stories. L. Ron Hubbard obviously made that stuff up. Extrapolate.
  2. The holy books underpinning some of the bigger theistic religions are riddled with “facts” now disproved by science and “morality” now disavowed by modern adherents. Extrapolate.
  3. Life is confusing and death is scary. Naturally, humans want to believe that someone capable is in charge and that we continue to live after we die. But wanting doesn’t make it so.
  4. Child rape. War. Etc. ...

Continue reading

October 22, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Nii Addy: Christian. Black. Neuroscientist.

John Inazu (Washington University; Google Scholar), Christian. Black. Neuroscientist.:

Addy 2Nii Addy is the Albert E. Kent Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Yale School of Medicine. Nii directs a federally funded research program investigating cholinergic, dopaminergic and L-type calcium channel mechanisms mediating substance use and mood disorders. His team also studies the ability of tobacco product flavor additives to alter nicotine use behavior and addiction.

Nii is also the inaugural Director of Scientist Diversity, and Inclusion at the School of Medicine. And he has a podcast, The Addy Hour, and a Substack, The Addy Minute. ...

John Inazu:  You are a Black Christian in elite academic medicine, which I imagine is a somewhat rare overlap. What has been your experience navigating your different identities? What relationships have you found the most encouraging and discouraging in this regard?

Nii Addy:  In my experience, it has definitely been a rare overlap of being a Christian and a Black academic. This is especially true in scientific circles. At the same, I’ve been blessed to interact with more and more people in similar situations. This includes other professors, staff, students and trainees.

Continue reading

October 15, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Ted Lasso, Pelagius, And Augustine: Can People Change?

Christianity Today, Can People Change? ‘Ted Lasso’ Revived an Ancient Debate.:

Ted Lasso Roy KentIn a time when societal consensus, let alone advancement, seems painfully unattainable, the quirky television comedy Ted Lasso has struck a chord. ... At the heart of the show is a question one of the characters raises in the series finale. Roy Kent has just experienced a spectacularly abject failure in his efforts to improve himself. Overwhelmed with dejection and remorse, he is tempted to give up. Will he never learn? In despair, he confides his doubts to his friends and poses the question: “Can people change?”

Roy’s confidants do not leave his question hanging, proposing three different answers.

The first comes from the savvy and sardonic reporter Trent Crimm, a man whose profession is dealing in cold facts: “I don’t think we change per se as much as we just learn to accept who we’ve always been.” ...

[A] second voice pipes up with an alternative—a proposal from a character named Nate Shelley. More than anyone else in the series, Nate demonstrates just how radically and suddenly people can transform, both for better and for worse. “Oh no, I think people can change. They can,” he insists. ... He makes things sound too easy. In this sense, Nate’s glib “yes” is no more accurate than Trent’s fatalistic “no.”

Leslie Higgins, the club manager and sweetly awkward resident sage, takes the third swing at the question. Higgins rejects neither of the proposals on the table but offers a third approach, incorporating insights from both. “Human beings are never gonna be perfect, Roy,” he says. “The best we can do is to keep asking for help and accepting it when you can. And if you keep on doing that, you’ll always be moving towards better.”

In other words: Changing oneself is an uphill battle, where one never reaches the crest of perfection (Trent is right); but incremental advances are possible (Nate is right too). The secret to growth is recognizing one’s own neediness and accepting help from friends along the way; but we also can’t demand too much of ourselves. ...

Roy’s question is a timeless one. Over a millennium and half ago, a debate broke out that lends us some perspective.

Continue reading

October 15, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

The Largest Christian Ministries In America Are Universities

Baptist News Global, Can You Guess the Largest Christian Ministries in America by Annual Revenue?:

Ministry WatchWhat would you guess are the largest Christian ministries in America by total annual revenue?

If you guessed an institution of higher education, you might be right. The No. 1, 2 and 3 spots on the list are occupied by universities with Baptist roots.

The list was compiled by Ministry Watch, a nonprofit donor watchdog group. All data are based on the latest publicly available information filed with the IRS, which sometimes means a lag of a year or two.

Some of the best-known Christian ministries — World Vision, Compassion International, Catholic Relief Services, Samaritan’s Purse — take a backseat to three of the nation’s largest private universities.

Grand Canyon University, begun in 1949 by Arizona Baptists, today ranks as the nation’s Christian ministry with the largest annual revenue, $1.47 billion. After nearly entering bankruptcy around the turn of the century, the university remade itself as a for-profit enterprise and then transitioned back to nonprofit status in 2018. It has kept its Christian identity while successfully blending on-campus and online learning.

Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell, ranks No. 2 on the Ministry Watch list, with annual revenue of $1.34 billion. The vast majority of Liberty’s students attend classes online from all over the world.

Baylor University ranks No. 3, with annual revenue of $1.25 billion. Baylor maintains an affiliation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas but is governed by a self-perpetuating board of regents.

Two other universities are included in the top 20 largest Christian ministries: Pepperdine University, a Churches of Christ school, with annual revenue of $580 million, ranks 12th; and California Baptist University, with annual revenue of $388 million, ranks 17th.

Continue reading

October 15, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Symposium: The Religiously Affiliated Law Schools Conference

Symposium, The Religiously Affiliated Law Schools Conference, 38 Touro L. Rev. 1027-1167 (2023):

Continue reading

October 15, 2023 in Faith, Legal Ed Conferences, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink

Sunday, October 8, 2023

NY Times Op-Ed: Why I Am Still A Christian Despite The Evils Done To My Enslaved Family

New York Times Op-Ed:  Why I Am Still a Christian, by Esau McCaulley (Wheaton College; Author, How Far to the Promised Land: One Black Family's Story of Hope and Survival in the American South (Sept. 2023):

McCaulley 2Discarding a belief in God can feel like an intellectual rite of passage to adulthood. Just as our bodies develop and change, so can our relationship to things spiritual, leading us sometimes to set aside organized religion. For African Americans, in particular, adult faith is complicated by the way certain understandings of Christianity were used to justify our ancestors’ enslavement. ...

In my late teens and early 20s, freshly awakened friends challenged me, declaring Christianity a white man’s religion. ...

I spent my college years wrestling with that collision between racial consciousness and spiritual doubt. But ultimately, I have charted a path different from that of many of my literary heroes and friends. What led me to remain in the church?

Continue reading

October 8, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

WSJ Op-Ed: We Can All Learn About Forgiveness From Colorado Football Player Travis Hunter

Following up on last week's post, The Parable Of The Prodigal Son: Justice, Mercy, And Humility:  Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  We Can All Learn From Travis Hunter: The Colorado Player Sets a Fine Example of Forgiveness, by  Mike Kerrigan (Hunton Andrews Kurth, Charlotte, NC):

[Colorado wide receiver and cornerback] was considered a Heisman Trophy contender before the matchup in Boulder with the Colorado State Rams. While running a route in that game, Mr. Hunter was injured by Rams defensive back Henry Blackburn. Mr. Blackburn drew a penalty for the hit, and Mr. Hunter went to the hospital with a lacerated liver. ...

I thought of Mr. Hunter recently, when Micah 6:8—“Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God”—was discussed in a homily at Mass. It occurred to me how often I foul up these simple instructions. I demand justice from others when I’ve been wronged but expect mercy for my many shortcomings.

Continue reading

October 8, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Nation's Largest Christian University Says Biden Administration Is Unjustly Targeting It

Grand Canyon University News, Government Agencies Unjustly Targeting GCU (Oct. 4, 2023):

Grand Canyon 3Government officials associated with the U.S. Department of Education (ED), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and under the authority of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are coordinating efforts to unjustly target GCU in what appears to be retaliation for the university filing an ongoing lawsuit against ED regarding its nonprofit status. While such accusations may sound extraordinary, the facts in this document make clear that this is occurring at an alarming level for government agencies to be taking against the largest Christian university in the country. ...

GCU’s innovative approach to higher education has allowed it to go from an institution on the brink of closing to becoming the largest private Christian university in the country. It has become an American success story because it has focused on providing academic programs in creative delivery formats to help a greater percent of the population access higher education in order to meet their career and life goals.

Now, for political or ideological reasons we don’t understand, some in our federal government want to undermine those efforts. While we have taken the high road and continuously worked cooperatively and professionally with these individuals over the past five years, given their clear motivations and recent actions, we can no longer stay silent and allow their coordinated efforts to impugn the reputation of this university and the many faculty and staff who go above and beyond to ensure we provide the best possible service to our students.

Inside Higher Ed, Grand Canyon University Lambastes Federal Agencies in ‘Unusual’ Public Statement:

Continue reading

October 8, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

College Kids Are 'Hungry' For Christianity On Campus, Pepperdine Leader Says

Fox News, College kids Are 'Hungry' For Christianity on Campus, Pepperdine Leader Says: 'Central' to School Life:

Pepperdine Spiritual LifeAn associate vice president at a Christian university told Fox News Digital that he believes college students today are hungry for a robust spiritual life — and it is up to schools to ensure that their needs are being met.

"For a lot of students that come to college and really struggle spiritually, we want to do everything we can to make sure that this is a place where they find their faith, if they're open to it, or maybe return to the faith, if they've kind of strayed from it," Tim Spivey told Fox News Digital in a phone interview.

Spivey is the assistant vice president of spiritual life at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles County, California.

Alternatively, students who are already Christians can use college "to build a stronger, more vibrant faith," he said.

Continue reading

October 8, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education, Pepperdine Legal Ed | Permalink

Sunday, October 1, 2023

WSJ Op-Ed: What Jordan Peterson Can Teach Church Leaders About Reaching Young Men

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  What Jordan Peterson Can Teach Church Leaders, by Aaron M. Renn (American Reformer, a Protestant nonprofit):

PetersonGavin Newsom is a concerned father. “I really worry about these micro-cults that my kids are in,” California’s governor told Bloomberg’s Brad Stone in an interview this month. “My son is asking me about Andrew Tate, Jordan Peterson. And then immediately he’s talking about Joe Rogan. I’m like, here it is, the pathway.”

Mr. Newsom isn’t alone in his concern about the exploding popularity of online influencers among young men—or in failing to see important distinctions. Some, like Mr. Peterson, offer relatively wholesome life advice on podcasts revolving around health, fitness, personal discipline and career development. ...

What they have in common is that they’re finding a receptive audience among teenage boys and young men with a genuine desire for direction that isn’t being served by the hollowed-out institutions of traditional society. Mainstream institutions and authorities—churches, schools, academia, the media—could learn a few things from the online gurus about how to speak to young men effectively.

Young men today often feel as if their needs are secondary to those of their female peers. ... By contrast, online men’s influencers seek to help men themselves, to show them how to improve as people and achieve their own goals. ...

Continue reading

October 1, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

NY Times Op-Ed: Being There — The Cure For The Male Loneliness Epidemic

New York Times Op-Ed:  Being There, by David French (Author, Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation (2020)):

French (2024)Last week I read a poignant piece arguing that the male loneliness epidemic was afflicting a surprising group: American fathers. In one sense, these were men who were surrounded by love. They were typically married. They had children. Yet they still felt alone. They struggled to make friends.

The longer we march through these anxious, sad and divided times, the more I’m convinced that the bigger story, the story behind the story of our bitter divisions and furious conflicts, is our loss of belonging, our escalating loneliness. And one of the markers is the extraordinary decline of friendship.

According to an American Perspectives Survey, between 1990 and 2021, the percentage of Americans reporting that they had no close friends at all quadrupled. For men, the number had risen to 15 percent. Almost half of all Americans surveyed reported having three close friends or fewer.

Continue reading

October 1, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

The Parable Of The Prodigal Son: Justice, Mercy, And Humility

Bible Study 1 (092723)

I spoke at last Wednesday night's Bible study and dinner that my wife and I host for students, staff, and faculty. I talked about two of my favorite passages in Scripture: Micah 6:8 ("[W]hat does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.") and the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).

I used the three characters in the parable to illustrate God's view of justice, mercy, and humility. The younger (“bad”) son broke the rules and was humbled by hitting rock bottom, before returning home and receiving his father’s mercy and love. The older (“good”) son kept all of the rules and was humbled by realizing that did not make him any more deserving of his father’s love than his brother. To me, the main character in the parable is the father, who represents both our earthly fathers and our Father in heaven. All earthly fathers and mothers fall well short of being the parents their children deserve, just as all sons and daughters fall short in living out the fifth commandment ("Honor your father and mother"). 

I ended my message by talking about the sudden death of my 82-year old father in 2007. I am so grateful that, a few years earlier, I had taken separate trips to JH Ranch in northern California with my son and daughter when they were 13 years old for a week-long program (video) to help prepare them for adulthood. I got as much or more out of the program as they did. During each of the weeks, the ranch gathered the Dads and had us write letters to our fathers, apologizing for the mistakes we had made growing up and thanking them for all they had done for us. It means the world to me that after my father's death, I learned he had kept the two letters I wrote to him near his favorite chair in the living room.

I closed my remarks by offering everyone pens, stationery, stamped envelopes, and clipboards so they could write letters to their fathers or mothers. I was thrilled when they all took me up on the offer:

Bible Study 2 (092723)

It was a treat the next morning to mail the letters to parents around the country:

Continue reading

October 1, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education, Pepperdine Legal Ed | Permalink | Comments (0)

Speech By Princeton's Robby George About Free Speech Is Shouted Down At Washington College

Chronicle of Higher Education, A Professor Spoke About ‘Campus Illiberalism.’ Students Shouted Him Down Over His Anti-LGBTQ Views.:

Robert George 2This month, Robert P. George gave a campus talk about what he sees as a growing intolerance of certain viewpoints in higher ed.

“At some colleges and universities, speaking invitations to dissenters from campus orthodoxies are not issued,” the Princeton University professor wrote in prepared remarks he shared with The Chronicle. Those who are invited can be disinvited or pressured to withdraw, he wrote. Or “they are interrupted” or “shouted down.”

Some students who disagreed with George’s views on LGBTQ rights and abortion disrupted the speech. The event — at Washington College, a small liberal-arts institution in Maryland — ended early.

Continue reading

October 1, 2023 in Faith, Legal Ed News, Legal Education, Pepperdine Legal Ed | Permalink

Sunday, September 24, 2023

NY Times Op-Ed: What Happens When The Boss Invites You To Bible Study?

New York Times Op-Ed:  What Happens When the Boss Invites You to Bible Study?, by Jennifer Miller:

When Christy Childers moved from Austin to San Francisco in 2017 to start a marketing job at Facebook, she felt anxious about sharing her evangelical faith with her new colleagues. In Ms. Childers’s religious community, Silicon Valley has a reputation for being overtly secular and less than accepting of Christian beliefs. She now calls that view “unfounded.” Within a week, colleagues had invited her to a lunchtime Bible study and a happy hour attended by scores of Christians across the tech industry.

“I thought, ‘I can be out about being a Christian. I can do that here,’” Ms. Childers said.

During her three years as a brand manager, Ms. Childers’s evangelical identity became central to her work. She honed her managerial skills by leading the Christians at Facebook (now Christians at Meta) employee resource group. Weekly prayer meetings with colleagues led to what she called “real-time miracles,” like engineers suddenly fixing bugs they’d struggled with for months and solutions to P.R. crises. Company leaders also consulted her about the attitudes of conservative Facebook users.

In 2019, Ms. Childers founded Pray for Tech, a nonprofit that supports Christian prayer communities inside tech companies. The next year, she left Facebook to run the organization full time. She has since worked with Christian groups at 40 companies, where she’s observed a growing interest in supporting workers’ core identities, including their faith.

Continue reading

September 24, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

McCaulley: The Streets Sent Me to the Pulpit

Christianity Today Op-Ed:  The Streets Sent Me to the Pulpit, by Esau McCaulley (Wheaton; Author, How Far to the Promised Land: One Black Family's Story of Hope and Survival in the American South (Sept. 2023):

How FarMy sophomore year of high school, I met a girl at a party. We talked on the phone for a few weeks before finally setting a date to meet up again. She lived in the Lincoln Park projects in Huntsville, Alabama. I relied on her directions when I drove to pick her up, but I couldn’t find her house. Before giving up, I decided to get out and walk, in case she spotted me.

That was a mistake. The locals noticed my car circling their block, and a group of young men came over. One of them asked, “Who are you?” His tone invited con­frontation: You have stepped into my territory. Why are you here? ...

At 16, I was a mix of compet­ing visions and possibilities, with nothing to tie them to­gether. What came next surprised even me.

“I am a Christian,” I responded.

If breath and sound could be chased down, I would have run after my words and dragged them back inside my mouth. But it was too late. I had spoken.

The boys were shocked. I could see it on their faces. They’d wanted me to say I wasn’t from there so they could be justified in resorting to violence. But to hear they were in the presence of a church kid must have thrown them off-balance. In response, they laughed and walked away.

My friends and I used to say, If you scared, go to church—meaning faith was for the weak and the cowardly who found street life too much for them. But it wasn’t fear of a violent outcome that had motivated my confession. I’d had a moment of God-given clarity. ...

Continue reading

September 24, 2023 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

WSJ Op-Ed: ‘Sunday Morning’ — Lawyer Wallace Stevens’s Divine Stanzas

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  ‘Sunday Morning’: Wallace Stevens’s Divine Stanzas, by Daniel Akst:

HarmoniumSundays aren’t what they used to be, but then again when were they? The Christian sabbath was already losing primacy a century ago when an insurance lawyer by the name of Wallace Stevens published “Harmonium,” his first book of poems, and thereby unleashed on the world a set of eight extravagant stanzas titled “Sunday Morning.”

It’s hard to believe that anybody reading them in 1923 could ever look at Sunday mornings in the same light afterward. Stevens’s gorgeous meditation on the nature of divinity—and the human longing for “some imperishable bliss” in the face of mortality—is, among other things, a worldly rejection of the stringent Protestant sabbath of the poet’s youth.

Against the voluptuous sonorities and tropical paganism of Stevens’s iambs, the hard pews and tedious Sunday dinners of the 19th century never stood a chance. And the passage of time has done nothing to even out an unfair fight, or to blunt the unequivocal judgment of poet and critic Yvor Winters. “Sunday Morning,” he declared in 1943, “is probably the greatest American poem of the twentieth century and is certainly one of the greatest contemplative poems in English.”

By the time Stevens first published some of the stanzas, in 1915, it wasn’t altogether news that God was dead, for so Nietzsche had said. Born in 1879 and raised a Protestant, the poet himself shed his faith early. “I am not in the least religious,” he wrote in 1907. But the loss left him feeling “dispossessed,” and though he rarely attended services, he persisted in visiting churches, assuring a correspondent that “no one believes in the church as an institution more than I do.” ...

Continue reading

September 24, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Wheaton College Releases Report On Its History Of Racism

Christianity Today, Wheaton College Releases Report on Its History of Racism:

Wheaton Wheaton College embraced racist attitudes that “created an inhospitable and sometimes hostile campus environment for persons of color,” according to a a 122 page review of the school’s history released by trustees today.

Though the flagship evangelical institution was founded by abolitionists, over the next century and a half it turned away from concerns about racial equality. Even when the school’s leadership knew what was right, they frequently lacked the courage to “take a more vocal role in opposing widespread forms of racism and white supremacy,” the report says, and too often “chose to stay silent, equivocate, or do nothing” about racial injustice.

“We cannot be healed and cannot be reconciled unless and until we repent,” the task force concluded at the end of an 18-month study. “These sins constituted a failure of Christian love; denied the dignity of people made in the image of God; created deep and painful barriers between Christian brothers and sisters; tarnished our witness to the gospel; and prevented us from displaying more fully the beautiful diversity of God’s kingdom.”

President Philip Ryken told CT he believes the report is important and he’s glad the college will be making it publicly available.

“The record of the people of God, in so many ways, is a record of their failures as well as their successes,” he said. “I think we can be more effective in living for Jesus Christ today if we’re aware of the challenges that our brothers and sisters have faced in the past and how they have responded to the challenges and opportunities of their day.”

Continue reading

September 24, 2023 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Inazu: The Bad News About Politics Without Religion

John Inazu (Washington University; Google Scholar), The Bad News About Politics Without Religion:

InazuIn early 2016, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat tweeted, “If you dislike the religious right, wait till you meet the post-religious right.” Later that year, with Donald Trump having emerged as the Republican presidential candidate, Douthat followed up with a column titled “In Defense of the Religious Right.” In that column, he offered what he described as a “limited” defense of “the beleaguered, battered, all-but-broken religious right.”

Douthat’s basic claim was that a political right without religion would produce a “politics that cares less about marriage and abortion, just as some liberals would wish, but one that’s ultimately far more divisive.” He implored the rebuilding of some sort of religious conservatism because “without the pull of transcendence, the future of the right promises to be tribal, cruel, and very dark indeed.”

Nine years later, and on the verge of another presidential election season, it’s worth asking whether Douthat was correct in his prediction that the political right without religion would be worse than the religious right.

Continue reading

September 17, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

University Of Texas Professor: Final Thoughts As My Death Is Close At Hand

Washington Post Op-Ed:  My Death Is Close at Hand. But I Do Not Think of Myself as Dying., by Paul Woodruff (University of Texas; Google Scholar):

Woodruff 2How often do you think about death? “Every third thought,” said Shakespeare’s avatar Prospero in the last line of the last speech he gives in Shakespeare’s last play, “The Tempest,” aside from the epilogue that follows the play. My friends say they think of death at least as often as Prospero. I do, too. If we think about death so much, we ought to know what to think about it. Philosophy is supposed to have answers, but the answers we hear most often from philosophers are not good for us. “Live every day as if it is your last,” we are told. “Remember that you are on the way to death each day.”

A friend recently wrote an email message with this line in it: “Paul is dying of a lung infection.” He had meant it for someone else, but he had misdirected it. That sentence infuriated me. I do not have a lung infection. My death is close at hand, however, because of a lung condition called bronchiectasis, and I am on oxygen day and night. But I do not think of myself as dying. I am living each day with as much life as I can put into it. For me, that means going to bed each night planning at least one project for the next day — something worth getting out of bed and living for. As I think of dying, I make each day a time for living, for having something to live for. ...

Continue reading

September 17, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

'Surprised By Oxford' Film Highlights How C.S. Lewis, Romantic Poets Helped Bring A Skeptic To Faith

The Christian Post, 'Surprised by Oxford' Film Highlights How C.S. Lewis, Romantic Poets Helped Bring a Skeptic to Faith:

Surprised by OxfordFor those who love C.S. Lewis, Carolyn Weber’s conversion story sounds familiar: Like the Chronicles of Narnia author, she was a skeptical Oxford scholar who didn’t see faith as compatible with intellect — until she discovered Christ as the only solution to the “inconsolable longing” every human experience.

“I was very skeptical myself; [Lewis] calls himself ‘the most reluctant convert,’ kicking and screaming,” the award-winning author told The Christian Post. “I really recognized and resonated with that twofold. On one hand, I came from a background of really assuming that intellectualism can’t go hand in hand with faith, and also emotionally from a background in which my earthly father was not dependable, so there was no way I was going to trust in an eternal one.

“There were a lot of metaphysical questions as well as very pragmatic ones. But as I was introduced to the faith and to Christians, and I read the Bible for myself, I was able to sit with those questions and ideas instead of being so distracted: ‘What am I longing for?’ And ultimately the answer to the question, ‘Who do you say I am?’”

It was Lewis' exploration of joy, longing, and the quest for truth, outlined in his book Surprised by Joy, that deeply resonated with Weber, who today serves as a professor at New College Franklin in Franklin, Tennessee. Her memoir, Surprised by Oxford — the title a nod to Lewis’ book — recounts how, as a young agnostic, she came to faith during her first year at Oxford while studying the Romantic poets and authors. 

Continue reading

September 17, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Shane Claiborne At Pepperdine Caruso Law: 'We Belong And Pursue Truth As One'

Claiborne DSS DBS

Wednesday was a very special day at Pepperdine Caruso Law:  Shane Claiborne spoke over lunch in our Dean's Speaker Series on Amazing Grace: Christianity and Justice and over dinner at our Dean's Bible Study on Luke 7:22. Shane did a spectacular job in both settings and was incredibly gracious to our students, staff, and faculty.

During Launch Week last month, we gave every one of our 1Ls a pin with our theme for this academic year: "We Belong and Pursue Truth as One." After the well publicized conflicts over diversity and free speech at other law schools, we want to chart a different course and read this statement to our 1Ls and to the audience at the beginning of Shane's luncheon talk: 

We Belong and Pursue Truth as OneAt Pepperdine Caruso Law, we love God, we love our students, and we love each other.  We are called to better the world by strengthening our students for lives of purpose, service, and leadership through a rigorous and transformative legal education built on two foundational, symbiotic commitments: academic and research excellence, and Christian faith and values.

Our commitment to academic and research excellence impels us to engage in the rigorous pursuit of legal knowledge and critical thinking, and to vigorously debate ideas for the betterment of society.  Our commitment to Christian faith and values drives our fearless pursuit of truth, and anchors our scholarship, pedagogy, and community engagement upon transcendent values, such as integrity, respect, and belonging.

Our fusion of these two pillars yields abundant benefits in legal scholarship, education, and training that transcend the sum of their individual parts.  We appreciate that knowledge, faith, and community are gifts from Above, to be stewarded for the glory of God and for our flourishing.  We thus elevate the aim of our work and discourse, which is to advance what is virtuous, through respectful dialogue in a community of belonging, for the betterment of each other, our nation, and our world.  By embracing our diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, we enhance our unity in this high purpose and promote a thriving community among us.

Continue reading

September 10, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink

WSJ: J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord Of The Rings, And The Bible

Wall Street Journal, Tolkien’s Biblical Epic:

TolkienIf, in the 1930s, someone had sought to predict the bestselling English author of the 20th century, they probably would not have selected the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who died 50 years ago on Sept. 2, 1973, spent his entire professional life in the academy, yet his impact on the world reached far beyond the ivory tower. His Lord of the Rings series of novels, which launched the modern genre of fantasy literature, have sold over 150 million copies and served as the source material for the wildly successful films of Peter Jackson.

Tolkien’s fame began with a much lighter work, The Hobbit, published in 1937. A book for children, it is the story of Bilbo Baggins, a lazy creature who is suddenly startled into alacrity by a visiting wizard and an entourage of dwarves that recruit him to join their invasion of a dragon’s den. Along the way, Bilbo acquires a useful ring that allows him to turn invisible, a magical device essential to the triumph of his quest. ...

To understand the enduring enchantment of Tolkien’s works, one must comprehend a central feature of his life that the 2019 biopic Tolkien largely chose to ignore: his Catholic faith.

Continue reading

September 10, 2023 in Book Club, Faith, Legal Education | Permalink