Helen Norton, professor and Ira C. Rothgerber Jr. Chair in Constitutional Law, will present a chapter of her forthcoming book, The Government’s Speech and the Constitution, at the National Conference of Constitutional Law Scholars in Tucson, Arizona, March 9-10. The book will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2019. Norton's scholarly and teaching interests include constitutional law, civil rights, and employment discrimination law. She is a former deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice and director of legal and public policy at the National Partnership for Women & Families.
Book Abstract: Governments must speak in order to govern, and so governments have been speaking for as long as there have been governments. The government’s speech is at times heroic, at other times banal, and at still other times despicable. Because the government’s speech has changed the world for better and for worse, it deserves our attention, at times our appreciation, and at times our concern. When we discuss constitutional law, we usually focus on the constitutional rules that apply to what the government does. Far less clear are the constitutional rules that apply to what the government says. When does the speech of this unusually powerful speaker violate our constitutional rights and liberties? More specifically, when does the government’s speech facilitate democratic self-governance and contribute to the marketplace of ideas—and when does the government’s expression instead interfere with public discourse? Under what circumstances does the government's speech threaten liberty or equality? And when, if ever, does the Constitution prohibit our government from lying to us? This book considers these questions, and more.