A New Project of the Federalist Society
There is a growing divide in this country over how to think about freedom of expression that
reflects a growing divide over freedom of thought. This divide is rapidly replacing what had
been a social consensus on the value of being able to say controversial things, the virtue of
defending the right to express unpopular opinions and the centrality of individual conscience in
the United States.
The Freedom of Thought Project—a special initiative of the Federalist Society—will address
these emerging questions pertaining to free speech and thought. Through programming at
conferences and at lawyers’ chapter and student chapter events, we will cultivate respectful
conversation and debate on the very topics where the discussion has sometimes degenerated
into name-calling. And we will explore how the dynamic is playing out in particularly
consequential areas of society, including the tech sector, the workplace, and academia.
For almost 40 years, the Federalist Society has provided a platform for thoughtful people from
across the ideological spectrum to bring competing arguments to a variety of sensitive and
contentious questions. We look forward to exploring these challenges to freedom of thought,
giving all perspectives a fair and level platform, and letting facts and ideas speak for themselves.
The Technology Sector
Are the tech companies the new public square? Should they be able to exclude users
from their services? Do they have an obligation to provide their services? Or to provide
their services in a nondiscriminatory manner? Should social media companies receive
immunity for speech curation and editing privileges? Should they be liable for speech
that is posted on their platforms? Does the First Amendment protect social media
content moderation? Might anti-discrimination restrictions on content moderation protect
platforms from state pressure to censor content? What has the legislature – both Federal
and state – said up to this point on the question? And how have the courts responded?
Explore these questions and more here.
The Corporate World
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors – what they are, what they mean for
private companies, and how they are implemented by governments and corporate actors
— is a frequent topic of conversation in current parlance. Should corporate actors
incorporate ESG factors into their business decisions? Is the trend of private sector focus
on ESG evidence of a more functional market, or do ESG factors distort the market?
Should corporations be responsive solely to shareholder interests or should they take
other constituencies into consideration? To what extent should corporate governance
law constrain these considerations? Do ESG factors leave corporations more susceptible
to manipulation or government influence?
Law Schools and Universities
Rather than fostering an environment geared to the pursuit of truth and the free
exchange of ideas, law schools increasingly seem more focused on shielding their
students from ideas they may not share. Students, in turn, have become more
comfortable threatening their classmates over differences of opinion and even shutting
down invited speakers and professors. A few of the recent incidents include:
- Yale – Fall, 2021: https://davidlat.substack.com/p/yale-law-school-and-the-federalist
- UC Hastings – March 3, 2022: https://reason.com/2022/03/02/ilya-shapiro-uc-hastings-law-school-students-protest-racism-supreme-court/
- Yale – March 17. 2022: https://nypost.com/2022/03/17/yale-law-students-disrupt-bipartisan-free-speech-panel/
- University of Michigan – March 23, 2022: https://campusreform.org/article?id=19422
- Georgetown – Spring of 2022: https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-i-quit-georgetown-
What should law schools and administrators do in the face of these incidents? Is the
classroom a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas? Which classrooms should allow
unfettered free speech? Should there be a limit for “hate speech” and who should define
what that limit is? What other questions and concepts determine a good legal
education? Explore these questions and more in this collection.
Law Firms and the Legal Profession
In recent years, “big law” has increasingly leaned away from intellectual diversity in favor
of ideological conformity and DEI standards based on identity group metrics. Jordan
Peterson’s quip on this topic and an iconic television scene both come to mind. How
might ideological diversity contribute to a firm’s culture? What about race or gender-
based diversity? Should firms take account of either demographic? If so, why? If clients
put pressure on firms to implement DEI initiatives, should firms comply? Are there legal
ramifications or increased liability associated with diversity-based hiring decisions? Is
diversity consciousness a good thing for society writ large?
Look to this collection of content for a place to begin thinking about the pros and cons of
freedom of thought and big law.
Continuing Legal Education
This is currently an emerging project. As we are able to provide content with CLE credit, it will appear here.