March 01, 2024

As part of the First Amendment Initiatives at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law (Catholic Law), the Law School hosted the third annual Seigenthaler Debates the evening of Tuesday, February 27, with the cosponsorships of the Law School’s Federalist Society and American Constitution Society chapters. Each year, the Seigenthaler Debates feature two First Amendment scholars debating and discussing First Amendment issues.

Jenin Younes, Judge Justin Walker, and Robert CharrowThe evening’s debate, held virtually, featured Jenin Younes of the New Civil Liberties Alliance and Robert Charrow, former General Counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and addressed the following resolution: “Restrictions on public funding of scientific research that are based on consensus/orthodox definitions of ‘science’ are unconstitutional conditions.” Younes argued in favor of defining such restrictions as unconstitutional, while Charrow argued in opposition. Judge Justin Walker of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit acted as the program’s moderator.

After a welcome from Catholic Law professor A.G. Harmon, Associate Dean of Bench and Bar Programs, Catholic Law professor Robert A. Destro introduced the interlocutors and their moderator.

Throughout the debate, Younes and Charrow laid out their arguments regarding the parameters of scientific opinion, the definition of consensus, and the validity of so-called scientific spokesmen. They also responded to questions posed to them by Walker as moderator. Audience members had the opportunity to submit questions through the moderator. The debate ended with each interlocutor providing final remarks. Harmon subsequently thanked all participants, as well as the moderator and audience members, before formally closing the event.

The 2024 Seigenthaler Debate is available for viewing below.