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Liberty Law Professors To Recreate Historical Case On Eugenics

October 06, 2011

A social theory that once reached the United States Supreme Court, was practiced in Nazi Germany, and considerably still remains in state statutes today will be the focus of a special presentation next week at Liberty University School of Law.  Professor Phillip Kline, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, along with several other Liberty law professors will recreate a historical case, which challenged Virginia law on the issue of eugenics.  The presentation is scheduled for Wednesday, October 12, and will start at 2:30 PM in the law school’s Supreme Courtroom.  

Eugenics most often involves attempting to improve a society by obliterating genetic defects by eliminating reproductive possibilities, and in some instances, attempt to breed specific positive qualities.  According to Kline, “these dangerous and harmful ideas are still present and active in our nation and if we are not vigilant, [they] will diminish liberty and erode legal protections for the vulnerable.”

This recreation is a reflection of a case that challenged the Virginia law allowing for forced sterilization of “derelicts.”  This specific case went to the US Supreme Court and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes upheld the statute in 1927 with the opinion, “three generations of imbeciles is enough.”  The Nazi medical doctors in their defense in the Nuremberg trials used this case and this statute.  Eugenics was alive and prospering in the United States as official government policy long before Nazi Germany embraced its application.

“Our hope for this presentation is to awaken students to the fact that ideas do matter.  Where we will end up is much due to the ideas that currently animate public discourse,” concluded Kline.

This presentation is open to the public and is a continuation of the Ideas Matter series currently taught by Professor Kline and is cosponsored by the Students for Life, the Liberty Counsel Student Organization and the Federalist Society at Liberty University School of Law.

Liberty University School of Law is committed to academic and professional excellence in the context of the Christian intellectual tradition. For more information about this event, please contact Professor Phillip Kline by calling 434-592-5300.