"Crime, Morality, and Bioethics in America: The Religious Right and the 'Culture Wars'"

7 September 2010

On 31 August 2010, Professor John Dombrink, professor in the Department of Criminology, Law & Society at the University of California, Irvine, spoke on "morality contests" in American culture, and the status of American laws and attitudes towards personal morality.

Professor Dombrink's presentation identified a number of enduring, shifting and contradictory elements of the American culture war. These included:

a) the broadening and moderating of the role of religion;

b) a drop in salience of certain wedge issues, such as same sex marriage and stem cell research;

c) continued ambivalence surrounding abortion and reproductive rights; and

d) the rise of a new/old culture war resistance ("birthers," "deathers" "Tenthers" "truthers" and "tea party" activists).

Professor Dombrink argued that these features suggest a reconfiguring of the "culture wars" in the United States. Professor Dombrink confirmed the thesis put forward in Sin No More: From Abortion to Stem Cells -- Understanding Crime, Law and Morality in America, New York University Press, 2007 (with Dan Hillyard), that despite the continuing contestation around abortion, assisted suicide, gay rights, stem cell research and legalised gambling, liberty and individualism remain the dominant values in the American culture wars, with power to shape American law and politics.

Professor Dombrink's lecture was convened jointly by The Centre for Health Governance, Law & Ethics; The Sydney Institute of Criminology, and The Centre for Values, Ethics & Law in Medicine (VELIM).

Jennifer Fleming, Professor John Dombrink, Professor Roger Magnusson
Jennifer Fleming, Professor John Dombrink, Professor Roger Magnusson

Professor John Dombrink
Professor John Dombrink