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Constitution Scholar Jerome O’Callaghan to Discuss Case that Unified the Country


Political scientist Jerome O’Callaghan will discuss a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court case that has significantly shaped American history during a noon sandwich seminar on Thursday, Sept. 17, at SUNY Cortland.

O’Callaghan, who is the SUNY Cortland associate dean for the School of Arts and Sciences and a professor of political science, will speak on “All You Need to Know About the First Amendment in One Case” in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge.

The talk, presented by the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement (ICE), is free and open to the public. The event marks Constitution Day.

Constitution Day must be observed by all educational institutions in the United States that receive federal funding. SUNY Cortland is a participant in the American Democracy Project (ADP), a multi-campus initiative that has focused on transforming that little-known federal mandate into an opportunity to reflect on government, liberties and obligations as citizens in this democracy.

“To understand how the First Amendment works in a conflicted Constitution, you need to look closely at one case on the Pledge of Allegiance: Jackson’s decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette,” said O’Callaghan.

In 1943, Justice Robert Houghwout Jackson, an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, decided a case that tested just how far government could go to unify the country. O’Callaghan described this decision as controversial, inspirational, profound and divisive.

“It shaped the liberal view of the First Amendment for generations,” O’Callaghan said. “It provoked a remarkably eloquent dissenting view that reveals the core of the judicial restraint argument.”

For more information, contact O’Callaghan at (607) 753-4312 or Professor and ICE director Richard Kendrick at (607) 753-2481 or visit the ICE Web site at