If the name strikes a bell, it’s because I’ve mentioned her from time to time.* Mary Anne Franks is a now-tenured law professor at the University of Miami Law School. She’s not a lawyer, having never been admitted to any bar, and accordingly has never practiced law, but that hasn’t impaired her ability to get tenure and teach criminal law. Go figure.
Franks lists her areas of “expertise” as
- Criminal Law and Procedure
- Cyber Law
- First Amendment
How cool is that, all subjects that interest me as well! So when Andrew Fleischman twitted that Franks published a book, how could I be less than thrilled?
Uh oh. The “cult” of the Constitution? That doesn’t sound good. And “deadly devotion”? Does this involve Nike sneakers and Kool-Aid? I checked my mail, but apparently Mary Anne neglected to send me a review copy. Stercus accidit. So I turned to Amazon.
In this controversial and provocative book, Mary Anne Franks examines the thin line between constitutional fidelity and constitutional fundamentalism. The Cult of the Constitution reveals how deep fundamentalist strains in both conservative and liberal American thought keeps the Constitution in the service of white male supremacy.
Constitutional fundamentalists read the Constitution selectively and self-servingly. Fundamentalist interpretations of the Constitution elevate certain constitutional rights above all others, benefit the most powerful members of society, and undermine the integrity of the document as a whole. The conservative fetish for the Second Amendment (enforced by groups such as the NRA) provides an obvious example of constitutional fundamentalism; the liberal fetish for the First Amendment (enforced by groups such as the ACLU) is less obvious but no less influential. Economic and civil libertarianism have increasingly merged to produce a deregulatory, “free-market” approach to constitutional rights that achieves fullest expression in the idealization of the Internet. The worship of guns, speech, and the Internet in the name of the Constitution has blurred the boundaries between conduct and speech and between veneration and violence.
But the Constitution itself contains the antidote to fundamentalism. The Cult of the Constitution lays bare the dark, antidemocratic consequences of constitutional fundamentalism and urges readers to take the Constitution seriously, not selectively.
So everybody, conservatives and liberals alike, gets the Constitution wrong because they . . . read the words? In fairness, she’s never been reluctant to assert that constitutional “fidelity” means that it’s fine provided it’s in service of her outcomes, and the moment “make no law” prevents her passionate desire to make a law, it’s “white male supremacy.” Who else would “fetishize” such horrifyingly discriminatory things like free speech when Mary Anne demands her right to be the internet’s scold?
But if she didn’t send me a review copy, which legal scholar will champion her curious characterization of the Constitution?
“Mary Anne Franks has written a powerful challenge to the prevailing constitutional orthodoxy of the right and the left. Her trenchant critique of progressives’ naive devotion to America’s flawed founding charter is provocative and persuasive. A deeply troubling and absolutely vital book.” (Mark Joseph Stern Slate)
Huge if true. And who doesn’t look to MJS when it comes to sound legal thought, right?
That this nonsensical gibberish comes from an academic, who has no restraining order preventing her from being in the vicinity of law students, is sad but not surprising. Rationalizing the re-interpretation of the Constitution to prevent things they don’t like but not the things they do has become a claim-to-fame for the unduly passionate.
Mary Anne is nothing if not passionate. Wrapping it up in language like “cult” and “fetish” is the branding of the woke. Isn’t it bad to be a “fundamentalist” and a “deadly devotee” to the Constitution? After all, who wants to be a constitutional cultist, slavishly supporting civil rights when there are sad tears being cried?
Well, I do.
And if you’re not a constitutional cultist, what are you? Never having taken Mary Anne’s crim law class, I guess I’ll never know for sure, but I’m fairly sure that those who do will be denied that opportunity learn criminal law, as they’re being taught by someone who hates the Constitution. If the choice is constitutional cultist or Franks sycophant, hand me the Kool-Aid.
*The first mention of Mary Anne here did not please her.