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

Ashes to concrete.

P astor Charles Cornwell of Center Point Baptist Church in Noble, Georgia, attributes the macabre dereliction of duty by local crematorium operator Ray Brent Marsh to sin: "Sin blinds us and sin makes us do dumb things." Neglecting to cremate more than 300 corpses and leaving them to rot in your backyard surely is "a dumb thing," but I might attribute it to more mundane failings than sin. Maybe Marsh is just an incorrigible procrastinator, with no good excuses and a streak of dishonesty. His sins -- chronic lateness, an inability to meet deadlines, and a tendency to lie -- are shared by a large segment of the workforce. Think about building contractors who never, ever get their jobs in on time or abandon them unfinished, auto mechanics who charge for repairs that they didn't perform, or doctors who don't get around to checking their patients' lab reports. Think about students who put off writing their papers until it's time to buy them on the Internet. You might say that the...

Secrets and lies.

A ssuming that the late former Enron vice Chairman Cliff Baxter died by his own hand and not the hands of others who feared he might testify against them, you might blame Baxter's suicide on guilt, shame, or fear of financial ruin. Linda Lay, wife of former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, blames the media: "Cliff was a wonderful man," Mrs. Lay lamented in a nationally televised interview; his apparent suicide "is a perfect example of how the media can play such havoc and destruction in people's lives." There's nothing new about efforts to scapegoat the media, and these sometimes seem justified by the sins of tabloid journalism. But for every victim of the press, there are many legitimate targets, from Richard Nixon and O.J. Simpson to Gary Condit and Kenneth Lay. Often, media scapegoating simply reflects an effort to evade individual accountability. People who resent being caught sometimes blame the press for their downfall -- as if reporting crime is worse than committing it. Linda Lay's...

Sectual Discrimination

R ebecca and David Corneau of Attleboro, Massachusetts, are Christian fundamentalists who belong to a small sect called The Body. Like Christian Scientists, they reject modern medical care in accordance with their religious beliefs. Unlike Christian Scientists, they are being deprived of all rights to raise a family. In the fall of 1999 -- after their infant son allegedly died shortly after birth because he was denied medical care -- the Corneaus' three daughters were taken from their home and placed in the custody of relatives. The following fall, the then pregnant Rebecca was incarcerated and forced to give birth in custody; her baby girl was also taken by the state. The Corneaus, who claim that their infant son was stillborn, are currently engaged in a legal battle to regain custody of their children. That battle escalated recently when Massachusetts officials "accused" Rebecca of giving birth to a sixth child. The Corneaus initially refused to confirm or deny this charge, which...

Heavy Lifting

P lagiarism charges against pop historian Stephen Ambrose are mounting; as I write this column, as many as six of his books have been found to include passages lifted from other writers without attribution. Scandals like this erupt periodically: Gail Sheehy ceded 10 percent of her royalties from the 1976 best-seller Passages to UCLA psychiatrist Roger Gould, who sued her for copyright infringement. (She also borrowed liberally from the work of the late Yale psychologist Daniel Levinson.) Joe McGinnis was exposed as a plagiarist when his 1993 biography of Edward Kennedy was found to include passages from books by William Manchester and Doris Kearns Goodwin. But Goodwin, who was rather unforgiving of McGinnis, had previously committed a similar offense (as The Weekly Standard recently revealed): She took passages from Lynne McTaggart's 1983 book about Kathleen Kennedy for her 1987 book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys -- the same book she accused McGinnis of appropriating. Literary...

Freedom's Edge

I n San Francisco, two militant advocates for AIDS patients have been charged with stalking and threatening public-health officials, researchers, and reporters who have made or disseminated what they deem to be objectionable statements about AIDS prevention and the behavior of infected gay men. Naturally, with no apparent sense of irony, they assert a First Amendment defense. The suspects, David Pasquarelli and Michael Petrelis, have been held for over a month, each on $500,000 bail. They admit that they made or encouraged "foul" late-night phone calls to the homes of officials who work at the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and others they consider the "enemies of gay people." (The phone calls began in November, after San Francisco initiated a syphilis-awareness campaign inspired by an increase in the disease among gay and bisexual men.) But Pasquarelli and Petrelis deny making the threats of violence that their targets report receiving. "They told me they were going...