There are laws, such as proclamations enacted for symbolic reasons, etc., that neither require nor prohibit conduct. In other words, the law creates neither a right/benefit nor a duty. Can any such law be characterized as serving a "compelling government interest," which is a test used in a constitutional strict scrutiny analysis. Just one example of such a compelling statute would be interesting.

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    The harder question would be whether anyone would have standing to contest such a proclamation on the grounds that the suffered an actual injury from it.- even taxpayer standing would be hard to show. Some laws that would seem to create neither rights nor duties would be designations of the proper names of mountains and the adoption of other toponyms (e.g. city and street names), which might serve the compelling governmental interest of being able to accurately identify the names of places for all manner of purposes, e.g. a street named "Book Of Mormon Is True Avenue".
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 7, 2016 at 23:31
  • What about a spending measure? Say, a law authorizing the Treasury to spend $150,793 to purchase paperclips. This could certainly serve a compelling government interest (the government really needs paperclips) but doesn't create rights or duties (except maybe for the Treasury itself). Dec 8, 2016 at 0:52
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    @Nate Eldredge A client of mine just opened a new consulting business and send a photo of himself in Office Depot with a mountain of new office supplies on an oversized cart. I can't even imagine what $150,793 of paper clips would look like.
    – ohwilleke
    Dec 8, 2016 at 5:40
  • Based on the "spending measure" and public (not private) property naming examples, which are about the government regulating itself, perhaps the question should be narrowed to laws creating rights or duties falling upon persons outside the government itself.
    – jsbox
    Dec 8, 2016 at 16:58

1 Answer 1


36 U.S. Code § 301(a)

The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem.

This, on its own, simply defines our national anthem, and even part (b) only says what people should (not must) do while it is being played.

36 U.S. Code § 302

“In God we trust” is the national motto.

36 U.S. Code § 101:

The President is requested to issue each year a proclamation...

  • I wonder if the second two examples count. Does the motto, through other legislation, create a duty for the national mint to feature something on coinage? Is a "request" of the President optional, or a "duty?"
    – feetwet
    Dec 8, 2016 at 5:07

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