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

Speech for Free

F ew institutions demand more protection of intellectual property than do corporate media. Eager to exploit the digital age but fearful of the ease with which copyrighted material can be borrowed or stolen, major media companies have successfully pressured Congress into enhancing penalties for copyright violations. The Motion Picture Association of America has gone to court to stop people from de-encrypting DVDs. Recording companies have declared war on Napster in a paroxysm of outrage over the pirating of CDs. Edgar Bronfman, Jr., CEO of Seagrams, has even attacked the right to anonymity in cyberspace because it "shelters illegal activity." As citizens, "we have no right to anonymity," he recently declared. Defenders of free speech will disagree, and so might the Supreme Court, which has recognized a First Amendment right to distribute political pamphlets anonymously. Bronfman, however, had more important matters on his mind: "the sanctity of...

Unholy Alliance

"Faith-based activism" is very much in vogue, and some church-run programs may be effective at alleviating urban ills. But funding these programs with government money raises troubling constitutional issues. Is there a reasonable middle ground? See " Can the Churches Save the Cities? Faith-Based Services and the Constitution," by Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore. I t is easier to believe that God is in heaven and all's right with the world than it is to imagine an irreverent politician questioning whether there is a God in heaven or any benefit to prayer. Even political theorists and commentators, right and left, are apt to shrink from criticizing religious belief or religious communities. Etiquette demands respect for piety and the presumed virtues of faith, and most people believe in God anyway. So it is hardly surprising that religion is being touted as the antidote to crime, drug use, and teenage pregnancy, although proof of religion's particular utility in treating or...

The Joy of Sects

N ow that the election has finally ended, politicians may be less preoccupied with declaring their allegiance to God, but efforts to involve Him in public policy show no sign of abating. Most Republicans and many Democrats have enthusiastically advocated federally funded, sectarian social service programs, which were promoted initially by the religious right. George W. has even proposed establishing a new federal "Office of Faith-Based Action" (in other words, an Office of Sectarian Initiatives). Exploiting the widespread belief that godliness is essential to virtue and the assumption that religious faith helps cure chronic welfare dependency, drug abuse, and other social ills, "charitable choice" programs have managed to make direct government aid to religious sects seem as American as football prayer. What politician wants to oppose either charity or choice, much less a "faith-based" program? Charitable choice was introduced in 1995 by the ultraconservative John Ashcroft, the former...

Faith-Based Favoritism

I 'm not gracious enough to resist saying, "I told you so," when I see rival religious groups fighting over federal funds. Only a few weeks after President George W. Bush announced a federal initiative to fund sectarian religious organizations, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was reportedly pressuring the administration--with some success--not to underwrite the Nation of Islam. According to The New York Times, ADL representatives left a meeting with John J. DiIulio, Jr., director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, "reassured that the president would not allow financing for the Nation of Islam's programs." The ADL, an organization devoted to opposing discrimination against Jews, might have spared itself the embarrassment of lobbying in favor of discrimination against Muslims. Bush made clear his aversion to the Nation of Islam during the 2000 election campaign: "I don't see how we can allow public dollars to fund programs where spite and hate is the core of the...

The A.G. Is Their Shepherd

W hen Attorney General John Ashcroft began conducting daily prayer sessions with Justice Department employees, he confirmed the hopes of religious conservatives and the fears of secularists: The new Republican regime would make government more godly. Ashcroft has loudly lamented the separation of church and state and has advocated government funding for religious groups, as well as the reintroduction of official prayer into public schools. Now he's organizing prayer in the public workplace. According to a May 14 report in The Washington Post, Ashcroft and a group of employees meet at 8:00 a.m. in his personal office or a conference room to pray and study scripture. Ashcroft's daily devotionals are said to be ecumenical, despite periodic references to Jesus, and they are open to all employees. (His supporters boast that one regular attendee is an Orthodox Jew.) No one is required to attend; but according to the Post , some Justice Department employees are uneasy about the prayer...