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United States Of Ketman

Law firm sacks partner for agreeing with Dobbs decision, sending powerful message to dissenters
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[Image: Robin Keller; see below]

Earlier today I posted portions of a letter that Kansas State Supreme Court Justice Caleb Stegall sent to the University of Kansas law school, resigning from his teaching position in protest of how the school is violating the principles of the legal profession through militant woke policies. He noted in particular that some law students complained that the feared for their physical safety because a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom was going to be in the law school building giving a presentation. Justice Stegall, in his letter to the law school, said that shutting down dissent within the law school, and allowing law students to believe that they have a right to expect this, is both to fail to form people qualified to practice law, and to undermine a fundamental basis of liberal democracy. In response to the Stegall post, a Christian law professor of some note e-mailed me subsequently to say:


I am raising my kids within the faith. They are great kids. It pains me to realize that if I am successful, I am likely preparing them for a life of ostracism, obscurity, or ketman.

Yes. This is the reality that all faithful Christians face. More on this in a second. But first, he sent a link to this piece by law professor Jonathan Turley. Excerpts:

In a column in the Wall Street Journal, Robin Keller, a partner at Hogan Lovells, wrote about being fired from the firm after a distinguished career of 44 years. Keller was not fired for intermingling funds or violating confidentiality of clients. She was fired because she exercised free speech in an internal meeting on the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. After Keller expressed her support for the opinion and concern about higher rates of abortions in the black community, a participant complained that she could not breathe and others called her a racist. She was later suspended and reportedly fired.


Lawyers at the firm demanded the firing of Keller and said that they were “traumatized” by having to hear someonedefend the decision on a call to allow people to discuss the decision.

Let’s repeat that again . . . these are lawyers who were traumatized because a colleague expressed a dissenting view of abortion, a view held by millions of other Americans as well as many judges and justices. It is a view that has been expressed widely in the media, including by African-American and female commentators.

I can understand how such arguments can insult or enrage others. Pro-life lawyers can also be deeply offended on the other side by pro-choice arguments. Abortion is an area that has torn apart this country for generations. The addition of race only magnifies the passion and anger in such discussions. However, this is an area that raises difficult constitutional, social, racial, economic, and gender issues.

Yet, rather than engage Keller on why they believe that she is wrong, these lawyers asked her to leave the call and then pushed for her to be fired for expressing her views. As we have seen on college campuses, it has become commonplace to seek to silence others rather than to engage them in such debates.



[W]e have seen reporters and lawyers rally to the cause of censorship or speech controls in recent years. It is the subject of my recent publication in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. The article entitled “Harm and Hegemony: The Decline of Free Speech in the United States.

That alarming trend is no more evident than lawyers saying that they “cannot breathe” in the presence of the exercise of free speech.

Lawyer Robin Keller's column is not paywalled at the Wall Street Journal; you should read it. The situation was even worse than Prof. Turley writes. Excerpt:

Everyone else who spoke on the call was unanimous in her anger and outrage about Dobbs. I spoke up to offer a different view. I noted that many jurists and commentators believed Roe had been wrongly decided. I said that the court was right to remand the issue to the states. I added that I thought abortion-rights advocates had brought much of the pushback against Roe on themselves by pushing for extreme policies. I referred to numerous reports of disproportionately high rates of abortion in the black community, which some have called a form of genocide. I said I thought this was tragic.

The outrage was immediate. The next speaker called me a racist and demanded that I leave the meeting. Other participants said they “lost their ability to breathe” on hearing my comments. After more of the same, I hung up.

Someone made a formal complaint to the firm. Later that day, Hogan Lovells suspended my contracts, cut off my contact with clients, removed me from email and document systems, and emailed all U.S. personnel saying that a forum participant had made “anti-Black comments” and was suspended pending an investigation. The firm also released a statement to the legal website Above the Law bemoaning the devastating impact my views had on participants in the forum—most of whom were lawyers participating in a call convened expressly for the purpose of discussing a controversial legal and political topic. Someone leaked my name to the press.

They denounced her to the entire firm as a racist for having said that a disproportionate number of black babies die by abortion, and that this is a bad thing. This is Woke Kafka.

This is going to keep happening until and unless we fight back, and fight back hard. As far as I know, the only meaningful weapon conservatives and old-fashioned liberals have is politics -- this, given that the woke left has captured virtually ever major institution in American public life. What can politicians do, though? I ask as a sincere inquiry. What kind of pressure can they put on the law profession (to cite only one example) to compel it to turn from its soft totalitarianism? Are conservative strategists figuring this out? We'll all be in the gulag before the current Republican Party does anything about it.

What the Christian law professor said about his children? I wrote about it five years ago in The Benedict Option. Excerpts:

I have talked to a number of Christians in fields as diverse as law, banking, and education, who face increasing pressure within their corporations and institutions to publicly declare themselves “allies” of LGBT colleagues. In some instances, employees are given the opportunity to wear special badges advertising their allyship. Naturally if one doesn’t wear the badge, she is likely to face questions from co-workers, and even shunning. 

These workers fear that this is soon going to serve as a de facto loyalty oath for Christian employees—and if they don’t sign it, so to speak, it will mean the end of their jobs, and possibly even their careers. To sign the oath, they believe, would be the modern equivalent of burning a pinch of incense before a statue of Caesar. 

It will be impossible in most places to get licenses to work without affirming sexual diversity dogma. For example, in 2016, the American Bar Association voted to add an “anti-harassment” rule to its Model Code of Conduct, one that if adopted by state bars would make it simply discussing issues having to do with homosexuality (among other things) impossible without risking professional sanction—unless one takes the progressive side of the argument. 

Along those lines, it will be very difficult to have open dialogue in many workplaces without putting oneself in danger. One Christian professor on a secular university’s science faculty declined to answer a question I had about the biology of homosexuality, out of fear that anything he said, no matter how innocuous and fact-based, could get him brought up on charges within his university, as well as attacked by social media mobs. Everyone working for a major corporation will be frog-marched through “diversity and inclusion” training, and will face pressure not simply to tolerate LGBT coworkers, but to affirm their sexuality and gender identity. 

Plus, companies that don’t abide by state and federal anti-discrimination statutes covering LGBTs will be not be able to receive government contracts. In fact, according to one religious liberty litigator who has had to defend clients against an exasperating array of anti-discrimination lawsuits, the only thing standing between an employer or employee and a court action is the imagination of LGBT plaintiffs and their lawyers. 

“We are all vulnerable to such targeting,” he said. 

Says a religious liberty lawyer, “There is no looming resolution to these conflicts; no plateau that we’re about to reach. Only intensification. It’s a train that won’t stop so long as there is momentum and track.” 

I remind you: this was five years ago. More:

Christian students and their parents must take this into careful consideration when deciding on a field of study in college and professional school. A nationally prominent physician who is also a devout Christian tells me he discourages his children from following in his footsteps. Doctors now and in the near future will be dealing with issues related to sex, sexuality, and gender identity, but also to abortion and euthanasia. “Patient autonomy” and non-discrimination are the principles that trump all conscience considerations, and physicians are expected to fall in line. 

“If they make compliance a matter of licensure, there will be nowhere to hide,” said this physician. “And then what do you do if you’re $300,000 in debt from medical school, and have a family with three kids and a sick parent? Tough call, because there aren’t too many parishes or church communities who would jump in and help.” 

In past eras, religious minorities have found themselves locked out of certain professions. In medieval times, for example, anti-Semitic bigotry in Europe prevented Jews from participating in many trades and professions, shunting them off to do marginal work Christians did not want to do. Jews entered banking, for example, because usury was considered sinful by medieval Christianity, and kept off-limits to Christians. 

Similarly, orthodox Christians in the emerging era will need to adapt to an era of hostility. Blacklisting will be real. In Canada, the legal profession is trying to forbid law graduates of Trinity Western University, a private Christian liberal arts college, from practicing law—this, to punish the school for being insufficiently progressive on LGBT issues. Similarly, an LGBT activist group called Campus Pride has put over 100 Christian colleges on a “Shame List,” and called on business and industry not to hire their graduates. It is unwise to discount the influence of groups like this on corporate culture—and that, in turn, will have a devastating effect on Christian colleges. 

“The challenges to Christian education—especially higher education—are about to be aggressive,” one legal scholar said. “Degrees from unaccredited universities, or universities that can’t place graduates, or receive federal research dollars, are of very low value.” 

Does this mean that no Christian should go to medical school— or law school, or for professional training to enter other fields? Not necessarily. It does mean, however, that Christians must not take for granted that within a given field, there will be no challenges to their faith so great that they will have to choose between their Christianity and their careers. Many Christians will be compelled to make their living in ways that do not compromise their religious consciences. This calls for prudence, boldness, and vocational creativity and social solidarity among believers. 

Of course the follow-up book, Live Not By Lies, deals with even more pointed matters of persecution. It's here, in many places, and broader measures are coming harder and faster. This morning in the taping of the talkshow in Bratislava, I said that the rest of us in the West are in deep debt to the leaders of the underground church in Communist-era Slovakia, for showing us Christians how to endure suffering and persecution without breaking. In response, a Slovak professor said to me it was preposterous to say that what we have today is anything like the Communist era. Well sir, just you wait: what happens in America doesn't stay in America.

The fate of Robin Keller is a bellwether. Everybody else at that firm has now been put on notice: if you cross the woke, the firm will destroy your reputation. Robin Keller isn't going to the gulag, thank God, but she is out of a job, and she might find it difficult to find a job elsewhere, having been branded a "racist" and fired for it -- all because she spoke up at a meeting called to discuss the Dobbs decision, and defended that Supreme Court ruling.

Christians -- and Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and anybody else whose religious or moral convictions puts them on the other side of the woke -- had better realize that this is the world we all live in. I strongly urge everybody to fight back as hard as you can, while we still can. But at the same time, you had better be preparing yourself and your children to live faithfully in a world in which many doors, socially and professionally, will close to them because of their faith. You think it can't happen in America? Mister, it already is! And it's going to get much worse.

I would far rather my children be poor, marginal, but faithful than to be rich, powerful, and apostate, or functionally apostate, having chosen to hide their beliefs for the sake of protecting their wealth and status. I wonder how much longer those Christians who write off the Benedict Option as alarmism will be able to maintain this coping strategy. I wonder how much longer churches in America will be able to pretend that everything is going to be fine, if we just keep our heads down and wait. What I don't wonder is whether or not most American Christians will be willing to sacrifice bourgeois comfort, status, and success for the sake of following Christ: of course they won't! They will rationalize their compromises. They will practice ketman, a term used by Czeslaw Milosz in his great 1950s book The Captive Mind, detailing how and why intellectuals submitted to Communism. I cite it in this passage from Live Not By Lies, talking about what happens when one finds oneself in a situation where to show your true self would mean professional or social suicide:

You become an actor, says Miłosz. You learn the practice of ketman. This is the Persian word for the practice of maintaining an outward appearance of Islamic orthodoxy while inwardly dissenting. Ketman was the strategy everyone who wasn’t a true believer in communism had to adopt to stay out of trouble. It is a form of mental self-defense.

What is the difference between ketman and plain old hypocrisy? As Miłosz explains, having to be “on” all the time inevitably changes a person. An actor who inhabits his role around the clock eventually becomes the character he plays. Ketman is worse than hypocrisy, because living by it all the time corrupts your character and ultimately everything in society.

Miłosz identified eight different types of ketman under communism. For example, “professional ketman” is when you convince yourself that it’s okay to live a lie in the workplace, because that’s what you have to do to have the freedom to do good work. “Metaphysical ketman” is the deepest form of the strategy, a defense against “total degradation.” It consists of convincing yourself that it really is possible for you to be a loyal opponent of the new regime while working with it. Christians who collaborated with communist regimes were guilty of metaphysical ketman. In fact, says Miłosz, it represents the ultimate victory of the Big Lie over the individual’s soul.

Under the emerging tyranny of wokeness, conservatives, including conservative Christians, learn to practice one or more forms of ketman. The ones who are most deeply deceived are those who convince themselves that they can live honestly within woke systems by outwardly conforming and learning how to adapt their convictions to the new order. Miłosz had their number: “They swindle the devil who thinks he is swindling them. But the devil knows what they think and is satisfied.”

It feels deeply un-American to have to prepare your children to be failures in the eyes of the world if they are going to be faithful to Christ. But that's where we are in the United States today. If you are in a church where the pastoral leadership refuses to see it, find another church. If that's neither possible nor desirable, then find other Christian laypeople who share your concerns, and come together to form groups like Father Tomislav Kolakovic formed in Slovakia prior to the coming of Communism, so believers would be able to support each other when the persecution came. The Catholic bishops of Slovakia told Father Kolakovic that he was being an alarmist. But he knew better than those complacent prelates did -- thank God!

Look: the Left is creating a culture primed for explosion. It's going to happen. You cannot tell people that only one opinion is allowed, and see that they are slandered and have their careers ruined because they violated your smelly little orthodoxies, and expect that they will all go peacefully. Sooner or later, people are going to fight back, hard. It won't be the respectable people either. I've been writing these past few days in condemnation of white supremacists within conservative ranks and institutions. I think I mentioned in this space that an American expat, a white male Millennial, I had breakfast with the other day recalled his life growing up in a liberal suburb. He said that when you are constantly told that you are dirt because of your race and your sex, and that standing up for yourself only shows how worthless and wicked you are, you are either going to collapse, or you are going to find whatever you can to fight back -- even an evil ideology.

This is what the Left is doing to our country. Robin Keller is not going to go over to race radicalism or some violent form of political ideology. But a lot of people will. Christian parents may soon find themselves fighting two battles for their kids: one, to keep them from surrendering their faith to gain access to worldly success, and two, to keep them from surrendering their faith (de facto) to sign on to radical right-wing ideology that's willing to fight.

This is not a country we want to live in. But it's what's coming unless something changes, and fast.