Archive for month: July, 2014

American Pies

25 Jul
July 25, 2014

Many years ago, my wife and I stumbled across a memorable article called “The Great American Pie Expedition” in the New Yorker.  The article, which recounted the author’s road trip searching out cafes, bakeries and restaurants that made great pies, inspired us to take sometimes lengthy side trips hoping to share in the fruit of her discoveries.  In Uniontown, Pennsylvania the owners of a small diner told us: yes, they remembered the author, a “divorced lady” who stopped by several times.  In Oseo, Wisconsin, the pies helped us endure the constant crying of our then-11 month old, who turned out to have his first ear infection.

I’d trade even the very best of them for the pies at Greenwich Village Café & Bakery in Greenwich (pronounced “Green-witch”), New York, which my wife happened upon during our month-long stay in a one bedroom apartment in a converted barn thirty miles east of Saratoga.  The raspberry pie is tops in my book, the blueberry a close second.  We’ve had an excellent peach pie, and there are blackberry, banana cream, cranberry walnut and twenty others as well.  My favorite word in “The Great American Pie Expedition” is “bilious,” which is how I too feel after weeks of wonderful pies.  But for those who have world enough and time, and happen to be in this neighborhood, I’d recommend trying every pie Greenwich Village Café & Bakery has to offer.

pie picture

Tonight’s dessert: single serving strawberry-rhubarb


The Gordon College Controversy

18 Jul
July 18, 2014

Gordon College has been swept up into a controversy over a forthcoming executive order that will forbid the government from contracting with organizations that discriminate on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.  Frictions between sexual orientation and religious freedom are emerging as the key test of American pluralism in the coming years.  Media coverage in the Boston area the past two weeks has not been encouraging, but there are hints that a more reasonable tone is emerging.  After reports that Gordon’s accreditation will be under review this Fall, for instance, the accreditation agency has now clarified that there is absolutely no risk to Gordon’s accreditation.  I wrote a little column about the controversy here.

Got Religion?

07 Jul
July 7, 2014

Naomi Riley has a fascinating and eye-opening new book called Got Religion? How Churches, Mosques and Synagogues Can Bring Young People Back about strategies the major American religions are using to draw in millennials.  A little review I wrote of the book is here.

Hobby Lobby

01 Jul
July 1, 2014

As everyone who reads this post is no doubt aware, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that religiously oriented for-profit corporations have religious freedom rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  As a matter of statutory interpretation, the Court’s conclusion that some for-profit corporations have religious freedom rights strikes me as fairly clearly right, as I argued in this op-ed about Hobby Lobby a few months ago.  (The Court seems likely to reach the same conclusion as a matter of constitutional law if the question whether for-profit corporations can be covered by the Free Exercise Clause arises in the future).  RFRA applies to “persons,” a term that nearly always includes corporations, not just natural persons, in legal contexts.  And no one doubts that many (non-profit) corporations are covered by RFRA.  After all, most churches are technically corporations.

The panic about the possibility that giant corporations will now start demanding exemptions for numerous laws seems wildly exaggerated.  The majority limited its holding to closely held corporations like the two corporations in Hobby Lobby, leaving open the question whether a publicly held corporation could qualify.  I think the logic of the majority’s opinion would extend to a religiously oriented public corporation, as Justice Ginsburg points out in her dissenting opinion, but I suspect that very few large corporations could demonstrate that they are religiously oriented.

In the next wave of cases, a lot will turn on courts’ application of RFRA: how they interpret the questions whether a law imposes a substantial burden on religious freedom (yes in Hobby Lobby, due to the stiff fines if the companies failed to provide the coverage); whether the government has a compelling interest in applying the challenged regulation (the majority assumed it did in Hobby Lobby); and whether the government has used the least restrictive means of achieving its objective (no, because the government could have simply paid for the four drugs in question itself, or offered the same accommodation its offered to religious nonprofits).

One interesting question is whether Hobby Lobby has implications for other areas involving the rights of corporations.  I think it does.  In this op-ed posted this morning, I speculate about possible implications for future campaign finance cases.

I’ll probably have more to say about Hobby Lobby soon …


Geithner’s Stress Test

01 Jul
July 1, 2014

Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s book tour promoting Stress Test, his memoir of the 2008-9 crisis, has gotten eclipsed by Hillary Clinton’s book tour.  But the questions his apologia raises about if and when bailouts are appropriate, and whether our largest financial institutions are still “too big to fail,” still have not been resolved.  My instincts tend to be completely different than Geithner’s (no doubt one of the many, many reasons he’s the one who was Treasury Secretary), as reflected in this little column.