Tuesday, 6 December 2022

‘Closed And Fearful Environment’: State Supreme Court Judge Resigns From University Over Conservative Speaker Backlash

 Kansas Supreme Court Justice Caleb Stegall resigned from his teaching position at the University of Kansas School of Law after the university allegedly tried to pressure the Federalist Society chapter to cancel a speaker event which was deemed controversial, The Kansas City Star reported.

Stegall resigned in a Nov. 25 letter to KU Law School Dean Stephen Mazza and criticized KU faculty for allegedly trying to pressure its Federalist Society chapter into canceling its event with Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) director of strategic engagement Jordan Lorence. Stegall claimed to see “a dampening of the spirit of open inquiry,” according to the letter.

“So I write to let you know that, as a result, I will not be renewing my teaching relationship with KU Law next fall. During my time on the bench, I have endeavored bring the world of legal scholarship and the world of day-to-day judging closer together,” he wrote. “Teaching at KU Law has been a big part of that. But I do not want to do so in a closed and fearful environment, brimming with hidden hostilities and carefully nursed grievances.”

Federalist Society members asked the university to provide security for its event featuring Lorence after students and faculty began to voice opposition to the event, according to the letter. In response, Associate Dean Leah Terranova and Professor Pam Keller reportedly “pressured” the chapter to cancel the event and “warned the student leaders that they needed to consider and understand the impact the event could have on them.” The faculty members also reportedly told the students to consider how the event could impact their reputations.

ADF has been publicly attacked for its stance on LGBTQ+ issues. Under its Religious Freedom section, ADF claims that it “believes that marriage is the union of one man and one woman” and that “God created man and woman as complementary equals and that sex is binary and biologically determined.”

Stegall further clarified that he does not believe the professors made the recommendation to cancel the event to “threaten or coerce” the students, but described the interaction as “an ill-conceived attempt to protect those students.” 

“After all, it is true that in the current environment, being willing to swim upstream may in fact harm a person’s reputation and even standing in the legal community,” he wrote. “But isn’t that the problem? Rather than acquiescing to this, my hope and expectation is that leaders in the legal community would instead help protect the reputations of students willing to engage in difficult discussionsand guide them in that process.”

“Without that support, it took great courage for the students to carry on with the event,” he continued.

Stegall also recounted in his letter that the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Committee sent an email to the KU Law community which “described the speaker by his association with ADF as a practitioner of ‘hate speech'” and that the event would only be held to keep the university in compliance with the First Amendment.

“In my view, KU Law owes its students (all of them, not just the Federalist Society chapter) and the future of the rule of the law in Kansas better. And it is possible to correct course,” Stegall wrote. “But until that time, I can’t continue to provide tactic support to the current direction through my teaching affiliation with KU Law. Not when that direction so clearly threatens the basic pillars of our profession— and not when the duty to ensure the great conversation continues is so clearly ours to shoulder.”

KU, however, is not the only school to respond negatively to an ADF speaker stepping on campus.

In March 2022, over 120 students protested Kristen Waggoner, CEO, president and general counsel of ADF. Waggoner was invited by the Federalist Society to discuss the Supreme Court case Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski alongside Monica Miller, an associate at American Humanist Association, reported Yale Daily News.

Protesters reportedly disrupted the event by staging a walkout while the speakers were introduced, and many held signs and wore clothing in support of the LGBTQ+ community. The protesters who remained in the room were reportedly told to “grow up” by an administrator after they interrupted a reading of Yale’s free speech policy.

As a result, two conservative federal judges, James Ho and Elizabeth Branch, announced earlier this semester that they would boycott hiring law clerks from Yale to oppose the school’s alleged complicity in “cancel culture.”

Stegall was appointed to the Kansas Supreme Court by former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas in 2014 to fill a vacancy on the bench. He recently retained his seat during the 2022 midterm election after securing 73% of the vote.

No comments:

Post a Comment