Linda McClain [CANCELED]


Who’s the Bigot?
Learning from Conflicts over Marriage and Civil Rights Law

in conversation with AZIZA AHMED

Please Note: This event has been canceled
We hope to reschedule


March 13, 2020
3:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.


This event has been canceled. We apologize for any inconvenience, and we hope to reschedule.

Harvard Book Store and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics welcome LINDA MCCLAIN—Robert B. Kent Professor at Boston University School of Law—for a discussion of her latest book, Who’s the Bigot? Learning from Conflicts over Marriage and Civil Rights Law. She will be joined in conversation by renowned legal scholar AZIZA AHMED.

About Who's the Bigot?

Historically, critics of interracial, interfaith, and most recently same-sex marriage have invoked conscience and religious liberty to defend their objections, and often they have been accused of bigotry. Although denouncing and preventing bigotry is a shared political value with a long history, people disagree over who is a bigot and what makes a belief, attitude, or action bigoted. This is evident from the rejoinder that calling out bigotry is intolerant political correctness, even bigotry itself.

In Who's the Bigot?, the eminent legal scholar Linda C. McClain traces the rhetoric of bigotry and conscience across a range of debates relating to marriage and antidiscrimination law. Is "bigotry" simply the term society gives to repudiated beliefs that now are beyond the pale? She argues that the differing views people hold about bigotry reflect competing understandings of what it means to be "on the wrong side of history" and the ways present forms of discrimination resemble or differ from past forms. Furthermore, McClain shows that bigotry has both a backward- and forward-looking dimension. We not only learn the meaning of bigotry by looking to the past, but we also use examples of bigotry, on which there is now consensus, as the basis for making new judgments about what does or does not constitute bigotry and coming to new understandings of both injustice and justice.

By examining charges of bigotry and defenses based on conscience and religious belief in these debates, Who's the Bigot? makes a novel and timely contribution to our understanding of the relationship between religious liberty and discrimination in American life.

Praise for Who's The Bigot?

"An important and clear-minded book by a leading scholar of law and public policy that explores our evolving understanding of bigotry in the context of debates over gay rights and religious liberty. Deeply illuminating." —Stephen Macedo, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University

"A must read for those who are interested in seeing the modern social psychological understanding of racism applied to American religion." —Thomas F. Pettigrew, Research Professor of Social Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz

"Through historical excavation and close readings of primary texts, Linda McClain examines the meaning and use of bigotry over time. By situating us in the thick of past conflicts over equality, McClain shows that views we now repudiate as bigoted were once within the realm of reasonable debate. Her book should be a warning for proponents of equality law today: Labeling one's opponents as bigots may obscure, rather than illuminate, connections between past and present struggles. Instead, by unearthing the similarities in justifications for inequality over time, McClain leaves us better able to appreciate the relationship between struggles for racial equality and struggles for LGBT equality." —Douglas NeJaime, Anne Urowsky Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Aziza Ahmed
Aziza Ahmed

Aziza Ahmed

Aziza Ahmed is a Ms. contributor, Professor of Law and R. Gordon Butler Scholar in International Law at Boston University School of Law and Co-Director of the BU Law Program in Reproductive Justice. Ahmed’s scholarship examines the intersection of law, politics and science in the fields of constitutional law, criminal law, health law and family law. She is the author of the forthcoming book Feminism’s Medicine: Law, Science and Social Movements in the AIDS Response.

Linda McClain
Linda McClain

Linda McClain

Linda C. McClain is the Robert B. Kent Professor at Boston University School of Law. A graduate of Oberlin College, she has an M.A. from the University of Chicago Divinity School, a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and an LL.M. from NYU School of Law. In her spare time, she enjoys playing classical piano. Her previous books include The Place of Families: Fostering Capacity, Equality, and Responsibility; Ordered Liberty: Rights, Responsibilities, and Virtues; Gender Equality: Dimensions of Women's Equal Citizenship; and What Is Parenthood? Contemporary Debates About the Family.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

Event Series: Ethics in Your World

The “Ethics in Your World” series, presented with Harvard University’s Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics, features leading thinkers taking on tough problems that matter to us all. Learn more about the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics at

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