Overwhelmingly-Liberal Law Professors Are Training Future Lawyers; Do Our Law Schools Need More Diversity, And, If So, Of What Kind?
WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 17, 2020) – Law professors – those teaching students who will soon become precedent-setting litigators, judges, and frequently legislators and regulators or their staffs – are not only overwhelmingly liberal, but are also many times more likely to be godless than the general public, according to a recently published study, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
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More precisely, almost one-quarter of all law professors say they do not believe in God, compared with less than 5% of the general public. Moreover, an additional 18% of law professors say they don't know whether there is a God, compared with only 7% of the general public.
On the reverse side, only about one-fifth of law professors claim that they know that God exists; whereas more than half the general population say they know that God exists.
The study concludes that "law professors today are far less likely to believe in God than the general population, even compared to that segment of the population with graduate and professional degrees. Indeed, even compared to other professors, law professors are much less religious." Among those law professors who do practice a religion, the over representation of some religions is striking.
Diversity of thought? Not really
For example, while individuals who are Jewish make up only about 2% of the general population, a whopping 19.8% of law professors who identify with a religion - almost 5 times as many - say they are Jewish. In the words of the study, "Protestants are represented at only about half of their share of the general public and Catholics are represented at less than 60 percent of parities with the general public. On the other hand, Jewish and nonreligious professors are highly overrepresented on law faculties."
Indeed, the study reports that, "after several decades of diversity hiring, every large ethnic and gender group in law teaching has reached or exceeded parity with its percentages in the English-speaking full-time working population-or is getting fairly close to parity. Just about the only large demographic groups still grossly underrepresented in law teaching are Christians and Republicans."
Turning to political or philosophical leanings, studies consistently show that something like 75% to 85% of all law professors are liberal (as demonstrated by their political donations and otherwise), whereas only about 15% are even moderately conservative. Moreover, the most highly ranked law schools - those graduating law students most likely to becomes Supreme Court justices and federal judges, to bring precedent-setting legal actions, and to draft major new laws and regulations, etc. - are even more liberal; reportedly more than 95% at top-ranked Yale Law School.
While the study did not address the effect of having a law faculty which is much more liberal and much less religious than the general population on what and how such law professors teach prospective lawyers, it's hard to see how a relative paucity of conservative and/or strong religious views would not have a significant impact, and for the same reason that African Americans and Hispanics are so actively sought out by law schools as part of their affirmative actions programs for both students and faculty.
Law professors on religion
After all, the primary if not exclusive legal justification for employing affirmative action (sometimes termed "reverse discrimination") favoring so-called underrepresented minorities - including African Americans and Hispanics - is that students benefit from a range of viewpoints expressed in the classroom,
In other words, if African Americans and Hispanics are under represented compared with their percentage in some appropriate population group, it is argued that the views that many from the group are likely to articulate will be missing from discussions, and perhaps outweighed by those students in the majority. So, since professors are likely to speak far more often - and perhaps to be even more persuasive, as well as authoritative, in expressing viewpoints - than all the Black or Latino students in any given class, exactly the same concerns should logically apply.
Perhaps these concerns should apply even more strongly when it is law professors, whose views are tempered by a conservative and/or religious way of thinking, are much less likely to be heard, while those coming from professors who are overwhelming liberal and/or godless (generally defined at "having or acknowledging no god or deity; atheistic") can have so much apparent influence.
Similarly, since it is often argued that universities should give preference in employment to African Americans and Hispanics so that law students, especially from those groups, will see them as role models, and be more comfortable meeting with them in their offices and seeking out their advice, it would seem that the same argument can and should be made with regard to hiring law professors.
Law students and the issues
For example, law students who have strong religious feelings related to abortion, homosexuality, protecting religious freedom, end-of-life decisions, or similar legal issues might be much more comfortable discussing them with someone whose religious views are similar to their own,
Similarly, since many students say they are reluctant to voice conservative views in classroom discussions, they might be encouraged to speak up - and thereby add to their law school's overall diversity and inclusiveness - if they had a greater opportunity to hear some professors offer similar ideas in classroom discussions, and/or be encouraged by the ready availability of professors with such backgrounds to meet with them in their offices, express their feelings at law school forums and on discussion panels, etc.
In short, if it's appropriate to favor certain groups (e.g., Blacks and Latinos) in hiring and admission at law schools, it's not clear why such a policy should not apply as well to other underrepresented groups such as conservatives, Christians, and others with underrepresented religious backgrounds, etc.
Indeed, since differing philosophies and backgrounds are likely to be much more significant in classrooms discussing law than in many other university disciplines, the great disparities regarding political preferences and religious beliefs arguably should be more of a concern among those teaching law than similar disparities among professors teaching many other important university subjects such as math, physics, chemistry, biology, statistics and data analysis, computer science and programing, etc.
Law professors and personal opinions
In such classes, student discussion is less important, and where differences of opinion - to the extent they exist and are significant - do not depend on race, ethnicity, sexual preferences, etc.,
In other words, there is no African American or Hispanic viewpoint or perspective regarding finding the derivatives of algebraic functions or vector multiplication; student discussions by minority or other students will not shed much light on general relativity or quantum mechanics; both minority and majority professors use and interpret the periodic table the same way; and both have the same definitions of the standard deviation, notes Banzhaf.
It's very important to understand more about the views of those teaching many of the leaders of tomorrow, especially in the legal profession, because it may affect their teaching and their influence upon those who will be making many of the most important decisions for all of us in the future, argues Banzhaf.