Alan Dershowitz

On this date in 1938, Alan M. Dershowitz was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. He graduated with a B.A. from Brooklyn College in 1959 and an LL.B. from Yale Law School in 1962, and soon became a criminal lawyer. Dershowitz has been the defense lawyer for notable criminals such as O.J. Simpson and Michael Milken, as well as representing Claus von Bülow in the highly publicized trial where he was found innocent of attempted murder. Dershowitz has taught at Harvard Law School for over 40 years, beginning in 1967 when he was only 28, making him the youngest Harvard law professor to date. He has also written 25 books, including The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can Be Resolved (2006) and America on Trial: Inside the Legal Battles That Transformed Our Nation (2005), and has published over 100 articles for newspapers including The New York Times. Dershowitz was awarded the 1983 William O. Douglas First Amendment award for his work with human rights.

Dershowitz was raised Jewish. As an activist who supports Israel, he has been called “America’s most public Jewish defender,” according to his personal website. However, he described himself as “agnostic leaning toward atheist” when he received FFRF’s 2003 "Emperor Has No Clothes Award." Dershowitz is critical of religion. In his speech, he said: “The atheist who throws himself in front of a bus to save a child, with the full knowledge that that's the end of everything for him, deserves greater praise than the religious person who throws himself in front of a car to save a child knowing, believing strongly, that he will get a reward for it in the afterlife.” Dershowitz authored Blasphemy: How the Religious Right is Hijacking the Declaration of Independence (2008), which attacks the idea that America is a Christian nation, and Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origins of Rights (2005), in which Dershowitz argues that rights do not come from religion.

“The court’s right wing seems determined to chip away at the wall of separation by limiting the right of citizens to challenge governmental actions that favor Christianity over other religions and over the views of citizens who do not subscribe to any religion.”

—Alan Dershowitz, “The Supreme Issue,” Forward, Oct. 16, 2008.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

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