Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"The law need not choose between protecting religious and secular convictions."

University of Virginia law professor Micah Schwartzman has two new essays exploring the propriety of giving special treatment to religion. In Religion as a Legal Proxy, he argues:

The idea that religion warrants special treatment has been criticized as violating norms of equality and fairness. In response, Andrew Koppelman has argued recently that the American legal tradition of treating religion as a “good thing” is justified on the grounds that when interpreted at a sufficiently high level of abstraction, religion serves as an indispensable legal proxy for a plurality of important goods. In this essay, I argue that using religion as a legal proxy remains vulnerable to charges of unfairness toward those with secular ethical and moral convictions. The case for adopting religion as a proxy turns on arguments against potential substitutes. Even if no category can serve as a complete substitute for religion, however, its use as a proxy can be complemented by protections for the freedom of conscience. The law need not choose between protecting religious and secular convictions. It can and should provide significant protections for both.

Similarly, in the abstratct of Religion, Equality and Public Reason, he writes:

A growing number of critics have asked whether singling out religion for special treatment is morally justifiable. In Religion Without God, Ronald Dworkin sides with those who reject the distinctiveness of religion. In this essay, I situate Dworkin’s argument within the larger debate. I then argue that his view is driven toward replacing a distinction between religious and secular commitments with one that turns on the difference between public and nonpublic values. The latter distinction is central to the idea of public reason. Although Dworkin resisted this idea, his arguments against the distinctiveness of religion lead him inexorably to some conception of it, suggesting the inevitability of a commitment to public reason for those who occupy a certain place in the debate about whether religion is special.


First Amendment, Freedom of Religion | Permalink


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