The Argument in Carson v. Makin Unexpectedly Turns To Critical Race Theory

#SCOTUS

Many of us were watching the oral argument in Carson v. Makin over the exclusion of certain religious schools from the state subsidies in Maine. A majority of conservative justices seemed to be leaning toward supporting the challengers in demanding that the state remain strictly neutral in such tuition programs. However, the moment that most struck me was an exchange between Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and Maine Chief Deputy Attorney General Christopher Taub where Taub appeared to acknowledge that legislatures have every right to ban critical race theory (CRT) from being taught. It is a legislative movement that is opposed by teacher unions and many Democrats.

The exchange occurred as Taub was being questioned on the meaning of “sectarian” under the law. Taub was arguing that a state has a right to demand “religious neutrality.”  Alito pushed Taub to the edges on whether it was then permissible for a school to push a curriculum that  “inculcates a purely materialistic view of life.” Taub responded that “it’s possible that, you know, down the road some school might pop up that is teaching something else, not religion but something else, say, Marxism or Leninism or, you know, white supremacy. Clearly, those kinds of schools would be doing something completely inconsistent with a public education.”

That is when Alito and Taub had the following exchange:

ALITO: Would you say the same thing about a school that teaches critical race theory?
TAUB: Whether that school would be eligible?
ALITO: Yeah.
TAUB: So I think that that is something that the legislature would have to look at. I mean, that one’s closer because, frankly, I don’t — I don’t really know exactly what it means to teach critical race theory. So I think — I think the Maine legislature would have to look at what that actually means. But — but I — I will say this, that — that if — that — that if teaching critical race theory is — is — is antithetical to a public education, then the legislature would likely address that.

It is well established that legislatures can dictate educational standards for schools so Taub’s answer was correct.  He also did a good job in deflecting the “what if” line of questions. However, the statement is not likely to please many in the teachers unions. Almost a dozen states (including Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Arizona, and North Dakota) have passed legislation to bar CRT and roughly a dozen more are considering such legislation. A coalition of educators and public interest groups has sued states like Oklahoma over such laws.

A lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and others, argues that the Oklahoma law violates the free speech of students and teachers and discriminates against students of color, LGBTQ students and female students.  The lawsuit also says that such laws have a chilling effect on the terminology and lesson plans teachers incorporate into their instruction.

At the same time, the National Education Association (NEA) has sued a mother over her attempts to gain access to records on the teaching of CRT.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has pledged lawsuits to fight such laws.

In the federal system, President Biden rescinded an order used to block teaching of CRT and other systemic racism theories.  However, the Education Department dropped references recently to CRT material in a proposal but stressed “those decisions are — and will continue to be — made at the local level.” The Administration previously linked to a handbook advocating CRT lesson plans.

Maine is one of the states moving to ban CRT.  Teachers in Maine are opposing the move.

That is why Taub’s answer is so interesting in light of the state and federal litigation. The Biden Administration is supporting Maine in its argument, but it is not clear if it supports this notable part of that argument.

The case is Carson v. Makin, Docket No. 20-1088.

This column was updated to correct an error in Taub’s identification. He is the Maine Deputy Attorney General.

91 thoughts on “The Argument in Carson v. Makin Unexpectedly Turns To Critical Race Theory”

  1. Karen says:

    “Critical Race Theory is a racist and historically inaccurate doctrine that violates the Civil Rights Act. It is harmful for children of all races, creates division, contempt, and depression. “

    While Turley conceded that he did not agree with all the tenets of CRT, let’s not forget that he expressly stated that he found the teaching of the theory *valuable* or words to that effect (I can’t put my finger on the article, but I challenge you to deny his sentiment). So, Karen, you are in disagreement with Turley on the issue of CRT.

    Karen says:

    “Slavery is still commonly practiced in African nations today. It is an ugly industry from the dawn of mankind. Western nations made history when they abolished slavery. Instead of being lauded for that act, the Left would punish them forever for not evolving even sooner.”

    Anti-semitism is still rampant in parts of the world. It has an ugly history for over a millennium. Germany made history for abolishing its persecution of Jews. Instead of being lauded for that act, Jews would punish Germans forever for not evolving even sooner.

    1. While Turley conceded that he did not agree with all the tenets of CRT, let’s not forget that he expressly stated that he found the teaching of the theory *valuable* or words to that effect (I can’t put my finger on the article, but I challenge you to deny his sentiment).

      Until you provide evidence that JT “expressly stated that”, then the only thing to challenge is your sentiment.

        1. Individualism is not a new matter of debate. When I discuss different legal theories or “schools of thought” in my class (including feminism, Critical Legal Studies (CLS), and Critical Race Theory (CRT)), a common point of criticism of these scholars is the elevation of the individual over the collective. I juxtapose those theories with writers of liberalism and classic liberalism (which I admittedly favor). It can also be part of a dichotomy of rights versus responsibilities in the law. However, these are writings that address the focus or purpose of legal rules or structures in society from different perspectives. The presentation at Boulder suggests that faculty and students should avoid individualism as a trapping of white supremacy in their own lives.

          However, the inclusion of “individualism” as a “cultural norm of White Supremacy” is particularly concerning from the perspective of academic freedom. I value the writings of CLS and CRT scholars on the issue as we discuss the evolution and role of the law in society. While I subscribe to an opposing view and embrace a robust view individual rights like free speech, the writings allow for alternative views on such fundamental issues in class.
          https://jonathanturley.org/2021/09/04/colorado-university-boulder-conference-decolonize-yourself-but-not-with-a-sense-of-urgency/

          Context matters. Being the free speech originalist that he is, JT exposes his “college-level” students to a variety of academic theories. He obviously values CLS and CRT from the perspective of a legal scholar that isn’t afraid to provide his students theories he opposes. Given the context of his post here and throughout his blog, JT hardly would be considered one that believed CLS and CRT theories should be used to transform the American culture.

          1. Olly says:

            “JT hardly would be considered one that believed CLS and CRT theories should be used to transform the American culture.”

            Did I say so? No, I did not. I was simply reminding her that Turley— whose judgment I presume she highly regards— disputes her over-the-top (as usual) pronouncement that:

            “Critical Race Theory is a racist and historically inaccurate doctrine that violates the Civil Rights Act. It is harmful for children of all races, creates division, contempt, and depression.”

            If Karen’s is one-sided characterization of CRT were remotely accurate, I hardly think that Turley would present CRT to his students as something of value! The problem with Karen, as with most Trumpists, is their “all or nothing” reasoning. I respect Turley’s opinions- by and large- because they are NUANCED- neither black nor white. Sadly, *nuance* is scoffed at by Trumpists as elitist….

            1. If Karen’s is one-sided characterization of CRT were remotely accurate, I hardly think that Turley would present CRT to his students as something of value!

              Not only is what Karen said demonstratively accurate, you have completely missed the nuance of Turley’s opinion of CRT. He doesn’t present CRT to his students because he values the theory. He presents it because it contrasts the individual rights theory he does value.

              1. A teacher does not present to a science class the myth of Creationism to contrast it with Evolution. Likewise, were Turley as adamant as Karen about CRT. His point was that there is some truth about CRT; just not the whole truth.

            2. Jeff, not everyone is as nuanced as you and can take three sides to every story.

              Once again our resident Liberal attorney(?) has missed the boat.

  2. It is now a FACT. My wife is a teacher, and she had a 14 year old student come up to her the other day and ask her if she was familiar with the works of Karl Marx, whom they praised. We aren’t ‘being infiltrated’ anymore, this is full on. Nobody sane in our society could be so calloused as to not think this is alarming. WAKE UP. Your Democratic party has been overthrown, *period*. If you value freedom in any sense of the word, STOP. NOW.

  3. Critical Race Theory is a racist and historically inaccurate doctrine that violates the Civil Rights Act. It is harmful for children of all races, creates division, contempt, and depression.

    Instead of expressly naming CRT, state legislatures should ban any teaching that promotes the idea that any race is either superior or inferior to any other race.

    It is inaccurate to claim that disparities are proof of racism. As well, it is inaccurate to portray slavery as an issue of whites enslaving blacks. Slavery is still commonly practiced in African nations today. It is an ugly industry from the dawn of mankind. Western nations made history when they abolished slavery. Instead of being lauded for that act, the Left would punish them forever for not evolving even sooner.

    Black and Latino parents I know vehemently oppose CRT. They are incensed that the public education system would teach their children that they are born victims, or to dislike classmates due to skin color.

    1. @Karen,

      And if you followed the questioning.
      It wasn’t just CRT but they asked about a school that taught White Supremacy. Taub said that he thought that the legislature would get right on it and shut it down.

      And that led to the CRT question. … The trap was set and Taub fell in to it.

      I expect this to get shut down. I’d want to say 7-0 but there could be a hold out so lets say they shoot down the law 6-1.

      -G

  4. Evil countries don’t get to dictate any “red lines”. They just get to be told “Nuts!” and subsequently obliterated.

  5. Putin, the man who has violated treaties and international laws, now wants legal guarantees??? He expects others to obey agreements while he violates them? He wants guarantees for himself while he violates the guarantee that Ukraine is safe from invasion if it relinquishes its nukes? Putin can go stuff a cucumber up his anus.

    1. OK, but the obvious retort is “you and what Army?” The appetite of the American people for another foreign military engagement, let alone one with a nuclear power, is just not there after twenty years of blood.

      Why not just accept that the Ukraine is a region traditionally traded between the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires, and that Putin’s aspirations in Ukraine are more a status quo ante than an attempt to reconstitute the Soviet Union – and leave it at that?

  6. violates the free speech of students and teachers and discriminates against students of color, LGBTQ students and female students.

    The Left never ask us, as members of minority groups, whether they have our permission to speak for us, drag us into their Marxist theology, never mind use as fodder. To them I say, “vete al Diablo”

    e.g. Latinx is not used by any Hispanics I know nor by me. It is detestable.

    The lawsuit also says that such laws have a chilling effect on the terminology and lesson plans teachers incorporate into their instruction.

    University professors who have been terminated for using the N word while reciting in class published literature would find this of little substance.

    1. As I recall, a prominent Ivy League professor once published a book titled, “N@#$%^” – I wonder what would happen to him if he tried that in today’s atmosphere.

      1. “I wonder what would happen . . .”

        Same thing that happened to Jytte Klausen, whose book was bowdlerized by Yale University Press. In a book about the Danish cartoons, Yale removed the Danish cartoons.

      2. That was a time when the intellectual culture of the United States could bear the airing of ideas. If I recall correctly, the book was a history of the word and an exploration of how it was used and greeted in American life. Sounded interesting at the time but I was younger then and at that time if you wanted to read something it would have to be sold at a bookstore or on loan from a library. I don’t know that the book itself was as widely circulated as its reputation.

  7. CRT is just another way for the left to try to destroy the culture and families in the US to break down any strong bonds except those geared toward a leftist ideology. The left failed with class warfare and are now trying to use a different race and gender warfare tactic.

  8. There was a time when black members of the ACLU would have supported the KKK’s right to march, but I doubt that’s the case anymore these days.

    1. I doubt any ACLU members would support the right for Nazis or the KKK to march these days.

      It is well known that Fascist organizations don’t tolerate competition.

  9. Leftist hate the idea of self governance.

    The hate the notion of a soveriegn people. Government being subordinate to the People.

    One defining question that might help. Where would the educrats get their power to overrule the People? We know the power of government flows FROM the People.

      1. Yes, Turley’s original title for the column (still noted in the URL) was “Did the Biden Administration Just Support the Right of States to Ban Critical Race Theory?,” and he mistakenly identified Taub as working for the Biden Admin., when he actually works for the state of Maine. I emailed him about the mistake, and he’s corrected it without comment. He often avoids acknowledging his mistakes.

        1. I emailed him about the mistake, and he’s corrected it without comment. He often avoids acknowledging his mistakes.

          What are you, 5? If he’s corrected a mistake, he’s acknowledged it. He’s demonstrated far less ego than you have.

          1. “What are you, 5?”

            Try 2. A five-year old could read this:

            “This column was updated to correct an error . . .”

            1. It didn’t say that when I posted my comment. Glad that he’s added this totally standard acknowlegement.

              1. What makes you think that it was your email that informed Turley of his error? Do you think you were the only one to notice the error? Why do you feel you should be given credit for discovering the error when so many people probably saw it as well. You think you are brighter than everyone else, but if that were the case you wouldn’t need to point it out. You have fallen flat on your face once again and no one is there to pick you up.

  10. Does one’s Race stem from the Mother or the Father?

    What role does Societal Values and Traditions play in that determination?

    As those values and traditions morph over time….is there a requirement to apply the new standard to the previously claimed racial status?

    The Left embraces a Living Constitution with a Woke Minded rejection of the greatness of the Founding Fathers for a multitude of conjured up reasons that vary with the mood of the moment anymore.

    Following Liberty2nd’s logic……can Obama be considered “Black”….and if so….why?

    As his Mom was White Caucasian and his Father a Black Kenyan (yes Karens there are White Kenyans)….at best he was of mixed race but claimed being Black.

    Was he wrong to do so?

    Or…did his Racial Status stem from his paternity and not from his maternity?

    One would have thought he would have embraced his Whiteness to benefit from the privilege that is supposed to insure.

    There is far too much chit chat about Race in today’s political commentary.

    MLK was telling us it was about character and the content of one’s heart…..and not skin color that matters in life.

    He was right.

  11. Freudian slips are the best kind! We all know CRT is pure racism – even the CRT snake oil salesmen know it. We may put this little inconvenient observation out of our conscious mind but the subconscious always tells a truth about ourselves. Always.

    1. Take out “the religiosity of” and you have the whole basis of Constitutional democracy. Problem is governments aren’t people capable of respect; only people have that intuition. So the correct statement might be better put as “people should respect other people.” Problem with that is “respect,” to be meaningful has to be earned. People don’t intrinsically respect. Maybe they should.

    2. The actual lay of the land is that government can use its free hand to tax its citizens in order to construct competing institutions hostile to many people’s values with near limitless resources from which one needs to be fairly wealthy to opt out.

      So if you believe in a fairly traditional version of Christianity practiced for generations, and you want to inculcate your beliefs in your children, a government hostile to your beliefs has the power to tax you and take your money to construct a “public school” in which not only is Christianity functionally banned, but contradictory doctrines are taught. So your choice at that point is either to succumb or to withdraw your child and pay separately to educate him or her in an environment not hostile to your values.

      Note that in some Northeastern cities, Catholic parish schools predated the advent of compulsory education and freely available public schools. So it’s not even accurate to propose that those schools are alternatives so much as a pre-existing parallel system of education that has been getting consumed by the taxing power of the State.

      1. So you would prefer that public schools teach Creationism as “alternative facts” along side Evolution in science class?

        When public schools stopped teaching Genesis as science, that was the death-knell of religion. You can’t have fundamentalist religion without Creationism which is why adherents tried in vain to come up with Intelligent Design which has been ruled by courts as unscientific.

        If you accept Evolution, you are a secularist. Oh sure, you can be spiritual and believe that there is more to life than meets the eye, but if you reject Genesis, you fundamentally reject the notion of a Creator.

      2. So if you believe in a fairly traditional version of Christianity practiced for generations, and you want to inculcate your beliefs in your children, a government hostile to your beliefs has the power to tax you and take your money to construct a “public school” in which not only is Christianity functionally banned, but contradictory doctrines are taught. So your choice at that point is either to succumb or to withdraw your child and pay separately to educate him or her in an environment not hostile to your values.

        That’s a very good point, El Cid. It’s one thing to make public education a “religion-neutral” environment, but it’s an entirely different thing to ban Christian teachings, but allow teaching that is hostile to Christianity. As the saying goes, “Politics is downstream from culture.” And I would argue that culture is downstream from religion. The definition of religion is not limited to a divine God. Merriam-Webster includes : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith. With that in mind, what we have now is a marriage of an anti-Christian religion (Marxism) and politics, both of which are upstream of culture. This brief video explains the impact Marxism has had on the Christian church and our American culture.

        https://www.theepochtimes.com/how-marxists-are-destroying-the-church_4133125.html?

        1. Olly,

          I am reposting this comment to you which I had addressed to EL CID, since perhaps you did not see it, in case you wanted to respond:

          “So you would prefer that public schools teach Creationism as “alternative facts” along side Evolution in science class?
          When public schools stopped teaching Genesis as science, that was the death-knell of religion. You can’t have fundamentalist religion without Creationism which is why adherents tried in vain to come up with Intelligent Design which has been ruled by courts as unscientific.

          If you accept Evolution, you are a secularist. Oh sure, you can be spiritual and believe that there is more to life than meets the eye, but if you reject Genesis, you fundamentally reject the notion of a Creator.”

          1. I don’t take sides on this issue, but the *scientific evidence* of both sides of the argument is wanting. Neither has the upper hand.

          2. Christian teaching is exponentially far more than the theory of creationism. It’s not just about whether the garden existed. It’s not just about the physical existence of an ark. Or the burning bush. or manna from heaven. Or Jonah and a big fish. It’s not just about OT prophets. It’s not just about whether a virgin gave birth, a man walked on water, Lazarus rose from the dead, the crucifixion or the resurrection. Individually, those are nothing more than teaching of the head. Christian teaching however, is about what transforms the heart; the spiritual formation of the individual. For most of my adult life I denied the existence of God and denounced the Christian religion because I saw Christians as hypocrites. They talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. The fact is, that is human nature. Christian education is not about teaching people to regurgitate facts or to become Jesus Christ. It’s about forming Christ in us, in our hearts, so that we act more like Him, rather than give into our nature.

            1. Olly,

              The Bible is the inerrant word of God. A true believer swallows it hook, line and sinker. You may be spiritual, but you are no Christian in the true sense of that word because you cannot pick and choose what to believe in the Bible like choosing what to eat in the buffet line at your favorite Olive Garden.

              And your belief in Trumpism is the antithesis of Christian values- just so you know.

              1. Is Trumpism the antithesis of Christian values? Is trying to keep one’s word the antithesis of Christian values? Is trying to uphold the law the antithesis of Christian values? Is increasing the standard of living for those poorer than oneself the antithesis of Christian values?

                It seems that Jeff has no values, so what he says is entirely meaningless.

              2. The Bible is the inerrant word of God.

                Absolutely!

                You may be spiritual, but you are no Christian in the true sense of that word because you cannot pick and choose what to believe in the Bible like choosing what to eat in the buffet line at your favorite Olive Garden.

                Your understanding of what it means to be a Christian is what I would expect from someone hostile to religion. I know, because I’ve walked in those shoes.

                While being a Christian does mean that you believe in God, that’s not all it means. In reality, belief in God is just the beginning. Becoming a Christian is a process. God works in your heart over time, and that work doesn’t end when you officially claim Christian faith as your own.
                https://www.faithward.org/how-do-you-become-a-christian/

                And your belief in Trumpism is the antithesis of Christian values- just so you know.

                That’s your strawman, not mine.

                1. Olly,

                  From all appearances, you have far more obvious faith in Trumpism than Christianity. That much I do know.

                    1. Olly,

                      Schiff and I will have the last laugh when Trump and/or his company are found guilty of fraud civilly and quite possibly criminally. Slavishly, you will not now commit yourself to accept a jury’s verdict in either event because when Trump states- as no one doubts he will- that he was railroaded on trumped-up charges by corrupt Democratic prosecutors you will believe his lies.

                      Turley won’t. That’s why I’m still interested in following Turley on this blog. For that day…

                    2. Schiff and I will have the last laugh when Trump and/or his company are found guilty of fraud civilly and quite possibly criminally.

                      Yawn. The last laugh will be short-lived when you discover convicting Trump won’t change the hearts and minds of conservatives.

                    3. It will prove one thing: that you gullible dead-enders had been had by a conman or, worse, lied through your teeth knowing that he was.

                      Trumpism is NOT Conservativism as the foremost Conservative intellectuals have proven by becoming Never Trumpers publicly (or privately). Republicans either will purge delusional Trumpists/Q-Anon followers from their ranks or the party will split apart.

                    4. Trumpism is NOT Conservativism

                      That’s obvious. It’s a manufactured thing designed to get useful idiots such as yourself to rally around it. It occupies territory in the brains of you Leftists and it owns your soul. You can beat it, burn it, investigate it, prosecute it, and put a stake through its heart and it still won’t impact the conservative movement.

                    5. Oh no, no, no, no no! You got it 100% B-A-C-K-W-A-R-D-S. Old school conservatives like you are POLITICALLY HOMELESS BUMS!!!

                      Since Trump and MAGA took over, TOOK OVER, TOOK OVER THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, old school conservatives were kicked out into the street, now politically homeless creatures.

                      CNN and the media are PISSED that Trump & MAGA TOOK OVER THE GOP PARTY, because the media is now supporting fatass Chris Christie for President – CNN literally created a new CNN series called CHRIS CHRISTIE, hosted by old school conservative Dana Bash.

                      WHAT’S SO GODDAMN FUNNY IS THE MAGA-CONTROLLED GOP decided not to hold a 2024 Republican Party primary for President. MAGA GOP is auto-nominating Donald Trump as the official Republican Party nominee for President 2024. THEREFORE, it’s literally impossible for an old school Republican to become the 2024 Republican nominee for President.

                      Old school conservatives are POLITICALLY DEAD AND STINKING and are desperately scrambling around trying to find a place to pitch their tents…….did you say something about Democrats and the Left? HAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

                    6. 🤣 Tents are for suckers that need a party to think for them. True Conservatives are registered Independent. Being outside the political party tents is not being homeless, it’s exactly where we should be.

                    7. So Trumpism is a false flag op by establishment Conservatives? A made-up feint to distract Liberals from the real Conservative movement?

                      Well, that’s special. So you are not now nor have you ever been a Trumpist? Though you nonetheless believe that the election was stolen!

                      Olly, your ilk is a dying breed. Face it.

                    8. Olly, your ilk is a dying breed.

                      😎 That’s what the British thought. That’s what the Confederate’s thought. That’s what the Axis thought. That’s what the Soviets thought. And that’s what your ilk, the American Marxists think. No matter how hard you try, you can’t kill the DoI and it’s self-evident truths.

                      Yours is an ideology for the soulless dead. That’s why you maintain them on the voter rolls.

                      Bwahahahahaha!

  12. But — but I — I will say this, that — that if — that — that if teaching critical race theory is — is — is antithetical to a public education, then the legislature would likely address that.

    It will be interesting if that statement is cited in the briefs in any of these pending cases.

    Absolutely! And the courts won’t even need a Klain retweet.

  13. Thank you, Professor Turley, for bringing this exchange to our attention. The case is definitely one to be followed.

  14. What is critical race theory?
    What is uncritical race theory?
    What defines a race? Color? Attitude? Accent?

    What was Obama? White? Black? Brown? Tan?
    What was his mom? Dad?

    Obama was half white but I. Terms of skin color he was tan. Not black like me.

    1. “What is critical race theory?”

      Something that is only taught “in law schools,” but is also good to teach to captive children beginning in their tender years not merely as a theory but as a moral instruction.

      “What is uncritical race theory?”

      All races are good, you’d hate to criticize any.

      “What defines a race? Color? Attitude? Accent?”

      Genetic proximity to discrete populations which evolved under different evolutionary stresses.

      “What was Obama? White? Black? Brown? Tan?”

      Obama was half admixed American Caucasian, half Kenyan (Luo tribe). By the standard of genetic admixture of American Descendants of Slaves constituting the American black population, Obama was more Caucasian, less African, and less Amerindian than the average black American. Phenotypically, he would be observed as having medium brown skin, tight curled black hair, and with facial features typical of persons with substantial Subsaharan African ancestry. Unless and until his exotic background was expressed, he appeared to be in many ways an ordinary black American male with atypically elite education beginning in his youth.

      “What was his mom? Dad?”

      His mother was admixed American Caucasian, and his father was Kenyan (Luo) African.

      “Obama was half white but I. Terms of skin color he was tan. Not black like me.”

      Obama’s skin color was slightly lighter than the average but by no means outside of the normal range of the skin colors of black Americans. You may simply have darker skin. In terms of nationality and culture, Obama was exceptional compared with the typical black American experience (Descended on both sides from American slaves, raised and educated in the United States, Protestant Christian religion, inheriting vestigial folkways from the American South).

      Applying uncritical race theory, you’re both fine fellows. I hope this helps.

      1. “Something that is only taught “in law schools’ . . .”

        If that’s intended as a serious comment, it’s hogwash. You’re conflating CLT and CRT.

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