The roles of religious conviction in a publicly justified polity: The implications of convergence, asymmetry and political institutions

Philosophy and Social Criticism 35 (1-2):51-76 (2009)
Our concern in this essay are the roles of religious conviction in what we call a “publicly justified polity” — one in which the laws conform to the Principle of Public Justification, according to which (in a sense that will become clearer) each citizen must have conclusive reason to accept each law as binding. According to “justificatory liberalism,”1 this public justification requirement follows from the core liberal commitment of respect for the freedom and equality of all citizens.2 To respect each as free and equal requires that no one simply be forced to submit to the judgments of others as to what she must do. Laws must be justified to those subject to them — each must accept grounds that justify the law. As Kant indicated, if such a condition is achieved, each is both subject and legislator: each is subject to the law, yet each legislates the law, and so all our free and equal under the law.3 Now it would appear that if we are to justify laws to each and every person, the reasons for these laws must be “accessible to all.”4 Religious reasons, however, are not shared by everyone, and may be inaccessible to some: they would thereby seem inappropriate in public justification. On the face of it, justificatory liberals seem committed to expunging religious-based reasoning from political justification. Not surprisingly, this apparent commitment of justificatory liberalism is adamantly rejected by many citizens of faith who consider themselves liberals. These citizens embrace the traditional liberal freedoms and rights and, moreover, reject any suggestion that a legitimate polity might seek to establish a religion, much less a theocracy. Yet they..
Keywords liberalism  pluralism  public justification  public reason  religion
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DOI 10.1177/0191453708098754
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