POL S 402 A: Advanced Seminar In Human Rights

Freedom of Religion and Speech

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
PAR 120
Joint Sections: 
LSJ 491 B
Jamie Mayerfeld

Syllabus Description:

Advanced Seminar in Human Rights
"Freedom of Religion and Speech"
University of Washington, Winter 2018



**2nd Essay Assignment**

**Electronic Readings**

Instructor: Professor Jamie Mayerfeld                                   Class:
Office: Gowen 35                                                                   Parrington 120
Office Hours: Tue. 1:30-3:00, Fri. 10:30-11:30                     MW 1:30-3:20

Overview: Freedom of religion and freedom of speech enjoy an honored place in most conceptions of human rights. They are nonetheless subject to continuing controversy. What is the proper justification of these rights, and where do their limits lie? Does the right to freedom of religion imply something beyond the general right to freedom of thought and expression, and if so, why? Are religious people sometimes entitled to exemption from otherwise general laws? Why is there a right to freedom of speech? Does is it extend to dangerous speech and hate speech? Should university campuses restrict hate speech? Can we judge the morality of hate speech and dangerous speech apart from the question whether it should be legally prohibited? Is blasphemy hate speech?

In this course, we study how political philosophers, legal scholars, and judges have grappled with questions regarding religion-state relations, religious toleration, censorship, religious and anti-religious bigotry, religiously offensive speech, dangerous speech, and hate speech. Our aim is to understand the disagreements that divide people on these questions and to develop reasoned positions in response to them.


A. You are expected to complete the readings on time and come prepared to discuss them in class. The texts are challenging, but also rewarding. You will get the most out of them though careful, critical reading (and re-reading).

B. Discussion is an essential part of this course. Part of your grade will be based on the quality of your contributions to class discussion. Shy students must make an effort to speak up. Talkative students may need, in some instances, to practice restraint. I am looking for regular, thoughtful class participation, informed by knowledge of the assigned readings. If conversation flags, I may institute pop quizzes or obligatory response papers.

C. Each student will give a presentation, roughly 8-10 minutes long, on the assigned reading. The presentation should analyze and critically engage the argument (or an important part of the argument). Your presentation will be based on a 3-4 page paper, which you are required to submit on the date of your presentation. Presentations will be evaluated on the basis of accuracy, clarity, organization, and independent and intelligent engagement with the author’s ideas.

Your presentation should not be a mere summary, but instead an original argument relating to the reading. Your argument may be interpretive (offering an illuminating understanding of the argument in the reading) or evaluative (offering a positive or critical assessment of the argument). Or it may apply the argument to some issue or question not raised in the text. Whatever type of presentation you choose, please articulate a clear position and defend it with relevant reasons and evidence.

D. Two essays, 5-7 pages long, will be assigned. You will be presented with a challenging question, intended to give you an opportunity for in-depth reflection on the texts and the questions they pose. Essays will be graded according to accuracy, clarity, and level of critical thought. The first essay will be assigned on Wednesday, January 24, and is due on Friday, February 9. The second essay will be assigned on Monday, February 26, and is due on Wednesday, March 14.

You may, if you wish, incorporate your class presentation into one of your essays. Please note that essays will be held to a somewhat higher standard of rigor, completeness, and polish than presentations – though these criteria will also inform evaluation of the presentations.


Texts: Readings are drawn from five books, on sale at the University Book Store, and electronic readings to be posted on the course website. The five books are:


Martha Nussbaum, Liberty of Conscience: In Defense of America’s Tradition of Religious Equality (2008)

John Corvino, Ryan T. Anderson, and Sherif Girgis, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination (2017)

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)

Mari J. Matsuda, Charles R. Lawrence III, Richard Delgado, and Kimberlè Williams Crenshaw, Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment (1993)

Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman, Free Speech on Campus (2017)


Grading: The course grade is calculated as follows:

  • Participation: 10%
  • Presentation: 20%
  • First essay: 35%
  • Second essay: 35%


Academic Integrity: Cheating and plagiarism are offenses against academic integrity and are subject to disciplinary action by the University. Plagiarism is copying someone else’s work and presenting it as your own (by not attributing it to its true source). If you are uncertain what constitutes plagiarism, please ask me. The Political Science/JSIS/LSJ/CHID Writing Center also offers guidance on plagiarism: http://depts.washington.edu/pswrite/forstudents.html.

Students with Disabilities Provisions: If you wish to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact the Disability Resources for Students Office (DRS), 011 Mary Gates Hall, uwdrs@uw.edu, or 543-8924. If you have a letter from DRS indicating that you have a disability that requires special accommodations, please present the letter to me.



This schedule is subject to revision.
A star (*) means the reading is an electronic reading.
All judicial cases are from the U.S. Supreme Court.


Wed. Jan. 3: Introduction

Mon. Jan. 8: Nussbaum, Liberty of Conscience, pp. 1-114

Wed. Jan. 10: Nussbaum, Liberty of Conscience, pp. 115-47; *Sherbert v. Verner (1963) (excerpts); *Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)

** Mon. Jan. 15 is Martin Luther King Holiday – no class. **

Wed. Jan. 17: Nussbaum, Liberty of Conscience, pp. 147-74; *Employment Division v. Smith (1990) (excerpts); *Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014) (excerpts)

Mon. Jan. 22: *Jonathan Berg, “How Could Ethics Depend on Religion?”; *Menachem Kellner, “Jewish Ethics”; *Ronald Preston, “Christian Ethics”; *Izam Nanji, “Islamic Ethics.” All four articles are from A Companion to Ethics, ed. Peter Singer (1993)

Recommended: *George Kateb, “Morality and Aestheticism: Their Cooperation and Hostility” (2000)

Wed. Jan. 24: Introduction, and John Corvino, “Religious Liberty, Not Religious Privilege,” in Corvino, Anderson, and Girgis, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, pp. 1-107

Mon. Jan. 29: Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis, “Against the New Puritanism: Empowering All, Encumbering None,” in Corvino, Anderson, and Girgis, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, pp. 108-49, 175-206

Mon. Jan. 31: Corvino, “Reply to Anderson and Girgis”; Anderson and Girgis, “Reply to Corvino,” in Corvino, Anderson, and Girgis, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, pp. 207-262

Mon. Feb. 5: Mill, On Liberty, chapters 1 and 2

Wed. Feb. 7: Mill, On Liberty, chapter 3

**Fri. Feb. 9. First essay due into Gowen 101 by 4:30 p.m.

Mon. Feb. 12: Introduction, and Mari J. Matsuda, “Public Response to Racist Speech: Considering the Victim’s Story,” in Matsuda et al., Words that Wound, pp. 1-52

Wed. Feb. 14: Charles R. Lawrence, “If He Hollers Let Him Go: Regulating Racist Speech on Campus,” in Matsuda et al., Words that Wound, pp. 53-88

** Mon. Feb. 19 is Presidents Day – no class. **

Wed. Feb. 21: Erwin Cherminsky and Howard Gillman, Free Speech on Campus (entire); Ana Mari Cauce, “Free Speech and What It Means for All of Us,” (2017); Robert C. Post, “There Is No 1st Amendment Right to Speak on a College Campus,” (2017)

Mon. Feb. 26: *R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992) (excerpts); *Virginia v. Black (2003) (excerpts); Frederick M. Lawrence, “Free Speech v. Hate Speech: The Changing Contours of Free Expression” (2016)

Wed. Feb. 28: *Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (2010) (excerpts): Andrew March, “A Dangerous Mind?” (2012); Lyle Denniston, “Challenging Use of Advocacy as Terrorism” (2014)

Mon. March 5: *Jytte Klausen, “The Danish Cartoons and Modern Iconoclasm in the Cosmopolitan Muslim Diaspora” (2009); *Saba Mahmood, “Religious Reason and Secular Affect: An Incommensurable Divide?” (2013)

Recommended: *Andrew March, “Speech and the Sacred” (2012)

Wed. March 7: *George Kateb, “The Freedom of Worthless and Harmful Speech” (1996)

**Second essay is due on Wednesday, March 14, by 4:30 pm, in the main office of the Political Science Department, Gowen 101.





Additional Details:

W course.

Catalog Description: 
Examines selected human rights topics including questions relating to the meaning, justification, promotion, implementation, suppression, or denial of human rights.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:32pm