EDITORIAL: An open letter to Jeff Landry

A Loyola degree means more than a piece of paper on your wall

Patrick Hamilton and Mark Michel

Dear Attorney General Jeff Landry,

Enshrined in its mission statement, Loyola University encourages students to “pursue truth, wisdom, and justice; and to work for a more just world.” Loyola students are guided by the institution’s Catholic and Jesuit principles. Loyola’s philosophies are inspired by those of Saint Ignatius, which we hope Loyola alumni will remain committed to through their practice of being positive and compassionate changemakers, seeking justice, truth, and God in all things.

Loyola graduates go on to practice our Ignatian philosophies in their own professional lives, and many have served in public office – including as governor. Our alumni have defended civil rights, voting rights, and human dignity. Along the way, many have credited their Jesuit education as an integral part of their pursuit of justice and faithful public service.

In spite of that, not all graduates have practiced our philosophies in good faith – particularly you, Attorney General Jeff Landry.

As a 2004 graduate of Loyola’s College of Law and now in your role as Louisiana’s Chief Legal Officer, you were elected to serve as the “people’s lawyer.” And recently, you announced you are running to serve as our next governor in the upcoming 2023 election.

In the almost two decades since your graduation from Loyola’s law school, you have violated and opposed the values and philosophies that are fundamental to our university and particularly our College of Law.

You have abused the power vested in you by the people of this state for personal political gain by urging the State Bond Commission, not once, but twice, to withhold $39 million dollars in infrastructure funding for a vital power station that charges drainage pumps in New Orleans. You claimed your actions were intended to pressure the city council to reverse a declaration that stated Orleans Parish would not be enforcing Louisiana’s abortion ban. But your decision to hold the funding hostage was unsuccessful. Instead, you recklessly put the lives of hundreds and thousands of New Orleanians at risk. All the while, the Sewerage and Water Board Executive Director repeatedly warned that “the whole system could fail” if the city’s infrastructure was not immediately updated.

You’ve used racist lies to serve your political ambitions and rile up your base. Take your appearance on the “Jay Sekulow Live” radio show in 2012, when you made the false claim that the Obama administration was “granting special status or waivers to Muslims as they go through TSA screenings.” Your rhetoric is dehumanizing and entirely un-Christian. Such claims have long been used by far-right groups to strengthen their power by distracting citizens from real issues. Racism has no place in an equitable society, and serves as an open attack against the dignity of all people.

Likewise, you have dehumanized and attacked the dignity of LGBTQ communities. You have attacked nondiscrimination policies in schools, created to protect students who choose to live their own, true identity. Your justification relied on a provably false claim that these nondiscrimination policies have a “tendency” to “create safe harbors for people who want to prey on children.”

Regardless of anyone’s political or religious persuasions, the Church teaches us to uphold the principle of non-discrimination. The teachings of Jesus call all people to love their neighbors as themselves and treat others with respect and compassion. It is unbecoming of the Office of Attorney General and that of a self-proclaimed Catholic to perpetuate such hateful rhetoric against any person. Sadly, you continue to spew hate, even though your own brother came out as gay.

You have failed to equitably represent the people over private interests, which is ironic coming from someone who campaigns on his concerns about our increasing national debt and lack of fiscal responsibility. Your protection of big oil from cleanup responsibilities on the gulf coast and acceptance of millions of dollars in campaign donations from oil and gas companies directly contradicts your promise and oath to serve the interests of the people.

Similarly, Citizens United’s open endorsement of your earlier campaigns is telling. This organization won a landmark Supreme Court case legalizing unlimited corporate spending for politicians. Since the ruling, we’ve witnessed massive increases in political spending that have corrupted our election process, and rendered our democracy significantly less equal. It has served as a powerful tool for the wealthy few at a time when wealth inequality is greater than any other time in our country’s history.

As a conservative, a lawyer, and an American, it’s disgraceful that you pushed baseless election fraud conspiracies simply because you were unhappy with the result. You attempted to overthrow the United States government and our sacred democracy to subvert the people’s will. It was a coup in search of a legal theory that lacked any competence, diligence, or ethical standards on your part as “the people’s lawyer.” Most egregiously, your attack on our democracy lacked any evidence whatsoever.

We are not fooled. We see how you have forsaken your duty to the legal profession in exchange for your desperate, political ambitions.

As a Loyola alumnus, you have a special responsibility to uphold our Jesuit values in spirit and in practice. Upon graduating from this institution, we are all expected to uphold these values through our practice of intellectual and moral excellence, service to others, and the pursuit of justice. This is how we reflect the values and traditions of this institution and reflect our own personal values and commitments to these principles. Most importantly, the practice of our Ignatian philosophies contributes to a more just and compassionate society.

As a Catholic and someone who received your Juris Doctorate from a Catholic institution, you have a responsibility to your faith. Jesuit teachings emphasize the importance of serving others and promoting justice, likewise, lawyers follow similar obligations in their administration of justice. Jesuit, and more broadly, Catholic teachings stress the importance of recognizing the inherent dignity of all people and treating them with respect. Your adherence to moral and ethical standards consistent with our Jesuit traditions is not only a professional obligation, but a personal duty.

These standards promote justice, the common good, fairness, and public trust in the legal system. Catholic doctrine encourages lawyers to strive for excellence in their practice, to act with integrity and impartiality, and to use their legal knowledge and skills to serve the poor and marginalized. You have promised the people you would play a pivotal role in maintaining the rule of law, and in promoting peace and social harmony in line with our Catholic mission.

It is past time that you fulfill your promises and stop using our principles for your political capital.

Your political career thus far has tarnished the reputation of Loyola and its law school with a blatant disregard for the principles and philosophies of this institution. Your lack of integrity is underscored by your contempt for the education you received from this fine institution.



And to the Loyola staff, students, and alumni, as our state looks to the new class of candidates running to be the next governor of Louisiana we hope you think on this:

If Jeff Landry has already abandoned the principles so foundational to his education, faith and professional career, how can he be trusted to not abandon the promises he makes to the people during this gubernatorial campaign?

The core philosophies of this institution are representative of the culture we strive to create: one that cares for the marginalized, respects the dignity of all people, and puts God in all things.