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The American Bar Association just got more woke

Gavel, Court

The American Bar Association has just decided to mandate critical race theory (CRT) in American law schools, further enshrining the dominance of CRT in jurisprudence. 

According to Cornell law professor William A. Jacobson, “This race-focused mandate is being forced on law schools through the American Bar Association’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (ABA)…….. Law students must attend schools whose accreditor is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to receive federal student loans. The ABA is the only federally recognized law school accreditor.”

Jacobson went on to write of the mandate’s “obsessive focus on systemic racism, a subject of scholarly dispute...”  Jacobson also writes of the ABA’s clear bias for progressivism:  “ABA membership dropped from 300,000 (over 50% of the bar) in 1980 to 194,000 (14.4%) in 2017. ABA may once have been a proxy for the American legal community, but now it’s just a proxy for the left wing of the American legal community.”

From my own experience as a lawyer, Jacobson is spot on. Ironically, this mandate comes on the heels of the recent “woke mob” treatment of Native American law student Trent Colbert. Trent was dogpiled by fellow Yale law students and administrators calling him racist after a misunderstanding of the word “trap house” in an email to classmates.  Wokism is becoming “the” American established religion, in violation of the First Amendment, in a way progressives would never tolerate if it were Christianity.

Legally, “religion” does not require an expressed belief in God. The Supreme Court has interpreted religion as “[w]hether a given belief that is sincere and meaningful occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God of one who clearly qualifies for the exemption.  Where such beliefs have parallel positions in the lives of their respective holders we cannot say that one is 'in relation to a Supreme Being' and the other is not."  Merriam-Webster dictionary includes the following definition for religion: “a cause, principle, or system of belief held to with ardor and faith.”

Critical race theory doctrines drive wokism and those tenets meet the definition of religion. Church planter Voddie Baucham, who did post-graduate work at the University of Oxford while studying CRT, has written extensively on the subject from the perspective of an African-American pastor, author, and dean of theology at African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia.  According to Baucham, CRT holds “Racism as normative (it’s normal, it’s everywhere, and it’s unavoidable).”  Baucham goes on to claim “CRT teaches that the only way to know the truth is to elevate black, marginalized voices and listen to their stories. People and their feelings become arbiters of truth, and anyone who disagrees with those feelings is either racist or has internalized racism.”  As a competing religion to Christianity, Baucham asserts “CRT advocates, such as Ibram X. Kendi, criticize white Savior theology, which maintains that people need to be saved from their sins…. Instead, they tout Black liberation theology, which maintains that people (as identity groups) need to be delivered from oppression.” 

Thoughtful evangelicals and Western intellectuals have warned against established religion for hundreds of years. The famous 18th century Baptist preacher John Leland wrote that government should never give “indulgence, preferment, or even protection” to a religious denomination. He described the harm to individuals of the coercive power of law in matters of religion. Thomas Jefferson wrote famously in his Danbury letter, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions.” 

With the move to require American lawyers and judges to inculcate CRT tenets in their work with the American judicial system, we are in dangerous territory. We will be seeing people like Trent Colbert and other accused “heretics” of wokism excised from the law like victims of the Spanish Inquisition. Those involved with the judicial system will expect wokism to tip the scales of justice.  Americans will have to show appropriate submission to wokism or face judicial and social consequences.  

Ironically, many secularists are also becoming alarmed at wokism becoming what they perceive as established religion. From a secular publication The Critic: “The reason the social justice movement is causing so much trouble at the moment is because it is a quasi-religious movement posing as an authority on issues of social justice……. It has been allowed to set itself up as a secular moral authority because our laws and principles of secularism have not yet expanded to include belief systems that do not fit our outdated understanding of ‘religion.’

It’s time to recognize wokism as a religion, subject to the establishment clause of the Constitution. For the same reason we don’t enforce the teaching of Christian religious dogma in law school, we should not mandate the tenets of CRT.  All Americans, believers and nonbelievers alike, should demand the freedom to follow their God-given conscience in matters of religion.

Bill Connor, a retired Army Infantry colonel, author and Orangeburg attorney, has deployed multiple times to the Middle East. Connor was the senior U.S. military adviser to Afghan forces in Helmand Province, where he received the Bronze Star. A Citadel graduate with a JD from USC, he is also a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Army War College, earning his master of strategic studies. He is the author of the book Articles from War.

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