John Inazu is the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He teaches courses in criminal law, law and religion, and the First Amendment. His scholarship focuses on the First Amendment freedoms of speech, assembly, and religion, and related issues of political and legal theory.
Inazu’s new book, Confident Pluralism, which provides the basis for his Chautauqua First Amendment Keynote Address, has been described as “an original and provocative look at an important constitutional freedom that today is largely forgotten: the right of assembly” that lays “at the heart of some of the most important social movements in American history,” including abolitionism, women's suffrage, the labor and civil rights movements.
In Confident Pluralism, Inazu argues that we can and must live together peaceably in spite of deep and sometimes irresolvable differences over politics, religion, sexuality, and other important matters. We can do so in two important ways – by insisting on constitutional commitments that honor and protect difference and by embodying tolerance, humility, and patience in our speech, our collective action (protests, strikes, and boycotts), and our relationships across difference. All of which is a test of patience and civic commitment. For as one critic wrote, “Confident Pluralism reminds us that disagreeing with others, even passionately disagreeing with others, without rhetorically vaporizing them is actually part of what it means to live as citizens in a republic” (Peter Wehner, Commentary Magazine). Confident Pluralism suggests that it is often better to tolerate than to protest, better to project humility than defensiveness, and better to wait patiently for the fruits of persuasion than to force the consequences of coercion. Confident Pluralismmay not give us the American Dream, but it might help avoid an American Nightmare.
John Inazu’s first book, Liberty’s Refuge: The Forgotten Freedom of Assembly, was published by Yale University Press in 2012. He has written broadly for mainstream audiences and his essays and commentaries appear regularly in many national publications including USA Today, CNN, The Hedgehog Review, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.
Sponsored by the Department of Communication, the Department of Government & Economics, the African/African American Studies Program, and the Honors Program
Published on April 27, 2017