Heritage Foundation Cult Indoctrination Camp

The closed-door “training academy” was aimed at a select group: recent law school graduates who had secured prestigious clerkships with federal judges. It was organized by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative group that has played a leading role in moving the courts to the right, and it had some unusual requirements.

“Generous donors,” the application materials said, were making “a significant financial investment in each and every attendee.” In exchange, the future law clerks would be required to promise to keep the program’s teaching materials secret and pledge not to use what they learned “for any purpose contrary to the mission or interest of the Heritage Foundation.”


“Law clerks are not supposed to be part of a cohort of secretly financed and trained partisans of an organization that describes itself on its own web page as ‘the bastion of the American conservative movement,’” said Pamela S. Karlan, a law professor at Stanford. “The idea that clerks will be trained to elevate the Heritage Foundation’s views, or the views of judges handpicked by the foundation, perverts the very idea of a clerkship.”

On Thursday afternoon, a few hours after The New York Times published an online article about the training, Heritage announced that it was suspending the program.


According to the application materials, Heritage’s unnamed donors were to pay for travel expenses to Washington, hotel rooms and meals during the three-day program. The curriculum would cover, the materials said, “originalism, textualism, habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights and other substantive legal and practical subject matter.” Originalism and textualism are modes of interpreting the Constitution and statutes that are generally but not exclusively associated with conservatives.

The application called for several short essays. One prompt said, “Please describe your understanding of originalism.” Another said, “Please identify the United States Supreme Court justice (past or present) whose jurisprudential philosophy and approach to judging you agree with most, and explain why.”

This is as disturbing as it is completely expected.

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