I am working on three major research projects: one short-term, and two others longer term.
The short-term project I wish to complete this year involves the current controversies over freedom of religion. Specifically, I intend to analyze several claims of conservative American religious organizations that their religious liberty is being violated. A number of religious organizations have challenged the constitutionality of laws that protect against discrimination or intimidation on the basis of sexual orientation; laws extending health insurance coverage for birth control; and laws that prohibit tax-exempt charitable organizations from endorsing political candidates. In connection with this project I intend to compare and contrast the Barmen Declaration of 1934 with the Manhattan Declaration of 2009.
I chose Freedom of Religion as my next focus because in the past I have published in nearly every other principal area that is covered in an introductory course to Constitutional Law. I have proposed original theories for analyzing the State Action doctrine and Freedom of Expression problems; analyzed affirmative action and gay rights under Equal Protection and Substantive Due Process; published a book about the power of Congress to enact the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause, the Tax and Spending Clause, and the Necessary and Proper Clause; and written about eavesdropping on international communications, the torture of prisoners in the War on Terror, and the enactment of economic legislation in light of the principle of Separation of Powers. Research and writing in an area strengthens my knowledge and understanding and makes me a better teacher. Particularly in light of all of the social and political disputes now arising under Freedom of Religion, it seems appropriate to now turn my attention to the topic.
The longer-term projects I wish to undertake include books about Abraham Lincoln and legal reasoning. The Lincoln project will describe how he changed our understanding of what it means to be an American and how he continues to influence the interpretation of the Constitution. I have published two law substantive review articles and several essays on Lincoln and the Constitution, and I have made dozens of presentations to professional, academic, and community audiences on the literary, philosophical, religious, and legal aspects of his work.
The legal reasoning book will complement my earlier work The Five Types of Legal Argument. Five Types is an intensely practical work; it presents a checklist of the different kinds of arguments that lawyers and judges construct and it describes how to attack and evaluate the strength of each types of argument. The new book will be more theoretical; it proposes that in analyzing hard cases lawyers and judges proceed through three distinct stages of reasoning: formalism, analogical reasoning, and realism. The stages of legal reasoning correlate to the stages of cognitive and moral development that psychological researchers have observed in individuals.
I have only a few more years until retirement. We'll see how much I get done before then.
Wilson Huhn has been teaching Constitutional Law at the University of Akron School of Law since 1984. Since that time he has driven around the world seventeen times - all on I-271 and Rt.8.