June 21, 2017

University President John Garvey addressed students and alumni from the Columbus School of Law earlier this month during a summer reception hosted by the Federalist Society, an organization of conservative and libertarian lawyers that seeks to promote constitutional values in the legal field.

Garvey spoke about several topics during his address, including President Donald Trump’s recent executive order titled Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, which directed the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury to reverse contraceptive mandate regulations and asked the IRS not to enforce the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax exempt organizations from supporting or opposing candidates for elective office.

Though that executive order has been criticized by some conservatives for not going far enough, President Garvey said he thought Trump’s directive against the Johnson Amendment “went too far.”

“When the executive [branch] acts without legislative consent, or ignores a statutory command, we run the risk of arbitrary rule and of losing our American birthright of government by the people,” he said. “It is wrong for Democratic presidents like Kennedy, Johnson, and Obama to act without Congress’s permission, and to refuse to execute laws that Congress has duly enacted. If you are interested (as I am) in limited government, the same should go for Republicans.”

Garvey also spoke about the trend of “judicial legislation,” in which the Supreme Court makes decisions that overrule those of representatives and lawmakers. These decisions, like the cases of Roe v. Wade or Obergefell v. Hodges, might have “no foundation in the language or the history of the Constitution,” Garvey said.

Lastly, Garvey provided advice for current law students and young alumni present at the event, acknowledging that many of them entered the law field because of an interest in “making the world a better place.” In today’s hyper-polarized political climate, Garvey said it can be tempting to find alternative avenues of accomplishing one’s goals.

“But conservatives should be wary of the path that side-steps democracy,” he said. “The basic premise of our political system, says Federalist 39 [of The Federalist Papers], is that government should ‘be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class.’ And one of the basic premises of conservatism is that this system is worth preserving.”

Photo Credit: Matt Wood, The Federalist Society

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