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 copyright." But media companies seem...

God's Word

When Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura dismissed religion as a "sham" and a crutch for weak-minded people, the pundits pounced. Ridiculing Ventura, commentators like E.J. Dionne hastened to praise religious belief and the strong-minded leaders it produced, like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. The governor's approval ratings declined; he repented and vowed to behave: "I'm not going to offer my personal opinions on anything," Ventura groused. Does anyone still believe that media elites are hostile to religion? Ventura's categorical dismissal of religious people (the vast majority of Americans) was refreshing precisely because it violated norms of religious correctness, even though it was rather facile. Of course, there are intelligent strong-minded people who believe in God; that's what makes religious belief interesting. But defenders of religion routinely make equally thoughtless generalizations about the unmitigated virtues of belief and the inevitable vices of disbelief;...

The Spiritual is Political

C onfronted with low voter participation rates and high levels of ignorance about politics and policy, many of us regularly bemoan the apparently apathetic American electorate. But we're mostly concerned with the apathy of people whom we imagine as potential political allies. When right-wing Christians made a dramatic entrance onto the political stage some 20 years ago, through organizations like the Moral Majority, they weren't exactly welcomed by liberals and lauded as exemplars of good citizenship. I wouldn't lament low voter turnout if all right-wing, antilibertarian Republicans (and Democrats) stayed home on election day, and I imagine they'd be similarly sanguine about a display of voter apathy from me. So I'm not sure whether to welcome or worry about an emerging campaign to politicize what New Age guru Marianne Williamson calls the consciousness community--an eclectic group of seekers including the consumers of personal development and pop spirituality books, patients of pop...

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...