Wendy Kaminer

Wendy Kaminer is a former senior correspondent for The American Prospect and a contributing editor at The Atlantic Monthly. She also serves on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union.

A lawyer, social critic, and former Guggenheim Fellow, she writes about law, liberty, feminism, religion, and popular culture. Her latest book is Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today. Other books she has written include Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety; True Love Waits: Essays and Criticism; It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture; I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional: The Recovery Movement and Other Self-Help Fashions; and A Fearful Freedom: Women's Flight from Equality. Kaminer's articles and reviews have appeared in many other publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, and Newsweek, and her commentaries have aired on National Public Radio.

Before embarking on her writing career, Kaminer practiced law as a staff attorney in the New York Legal Aid Society and the New York City Mayor's Office.

Wendy Kaminer retains copyrights to all her articles.

Recent Articles

On the Contrary

I t's a summer of stupid lawsuits. Food "addicts" are suing McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King and KFC, claiming that the fast-food industry creates cravings for unhealthy food and fails to provide consumers with nutritional information. (They might as well sue their parents for failing to provide them with common sense.) A female passenger is suing Delta Airlines for negligence, sexual discrimination and intentional affliction of emotional distress, because security agents asked her to hold up a vibrator packed in her mysteriously vibrating suitcase. (If this is her idea of actionable emotional distress and discrimination, you have to wonder how she gets through the day.) Conservative advocates of tort reform love frivolous cases such as these, overstating their occurrence and using them to promote a misleading image of a legal system overcome by weak, whiny clients and the greedy lawyers who encourage them. In fact, plaintiffs' lawyers who handle personal injury and civil-rights cases...

On the Contrary

W omen are hardwired to experience and recall emotions more readily than men, according to a study announced last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , as well as on CNN's morning show. "The wiring of emotional experience and the coding of that experience into memory is much more tightly integrated in women than in men," according to the study's lead author, psychologist Turhan Canli of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Perhaps because this statement -- dressed in the language of neuroscience -- confirms long-standing stereotypes about men and women, it was greeted by the press with little skepticism. None of the stories I've seen -- mostly reprints of an Associated Press report -- questioned the basis for Canli's unequivocal declaration of cognitive sexual difference. But it seems rather shaky to me. Canli and his co-authors tested 12 men and 12 women. (I suppose they were "average" men and women who accurately represent the rest of us.) Each...

On the Contrary:

C onsidering the generous tax exemptions long enjoyed by religious institutions, the routine invocation of God at official events or even the persistence of blue laws prohibiting the sale of liquor on Sundays, it's clear that the "wall" between church and state has never been much more than a curtain. While separationists often succeed in closing it, advocates of state-sponsored religion have been slipping under it for years. So the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision -- officially opening the curtain by upholding the constitutionality of a Cleveland voucher plan that channels tax dollars to religious schools -- was not unexpected or entirely unprecedented: In a series of cases, the Court has permitted various forms of public assistance to private, religious schools. [Wendy Kaminer, "Parochial Schools and the Court," TAP, January 17, 2000.] I don't mean to minimize the damage that this case can cause both to religious liberty and to the integrity of religious institutions. The state...

On the Contrary:

N early 25 years ago, in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the U.S. Supreme Court held that educational institutions may consider the race of their applicants in making admissions decisions. But the Court didn't clarify the constitutional justification for racial preferences. Are they permissible only when offered as remedies for previous discrimination (to level the playing field)? Or may racial preferences be employed in order to achieve a university administration's vision of racial balance or diversity? (I'm using the term "racial" loosely, as we often do.) There's a profound difference between these competing notions of affirmative action. Envisioning racial preferences as purely remedial greatly limits their use: An institution that hasn't discriminated against racial minorities in the past may not discriminate in favor of them in the present, and institutions that are guilty of prior discrimination may, in theory, only employ racial preferences remedially, until...

Ashcroft's Lies

C onservatives are supposed to stand for personal accountability. But at the FBI, under the ultraconservative stewardship of a Republican president and attorney general, no bad deed goes unrewarded. Recent revelations that agents in Washington ignored clues of terrorist activities before September 11, and afterward covered up their incompetence, diminished what was left of the bureau's credibility, and yet promised to enhance its power. As the story of bureaucratic bumbling unfolded, 30-year-old restrictions on the FBI's authority to spy on domestic political activists, and anyone else it targets, were erased by order of the attorney general. The guidelines on domestic spying were promulgated in the 1970s in response to Hoover-era abuses that included the surveillance and persecution of Martin Luther King Jr. Since September 11, Ashcroft seems to have been looking for an excuse to jettison those guidelines, and the FBI's incompetence gave him one. Searching for a scapegoat for the...