Judicial Evaluation of Religious Belief and the Accessibility Requirement in Public Reason

Law and Philosophy 35 (5):435-460 (2016)
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Many theories of liberal public reason exclude claims derived from religion on grounds that religious beliefs are not publicly ‘accessible’, because they are not amenable to meaningful evaluation by outsiders to the faith. Some authors, though, have argued that at least some religious beliefs are, in fact, publicly accessible. This paper examines the consequences of these arguments by exploring the accessibility requirement in relation to U.S. judicial precedent concerning religious accommodation. I first show that precedent accords de facto with the accessibility requirement by precluding judicial evaluation of the content of religious beliefs. I then show that this norm is independent of the status of religious claims vis-à-vis accessibility: even granting the accessibility of religious beliefs, other important political ends weigh against judicial evaluation of the content of those beliefs. I then generalize this conclusion to the broader enterprise of public reason, suggesting the general inadequacy of the accessibility requirement.



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David Golemboski
Augustana College, SD

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References found in this work

The Moral Basis of Political Liberalism.Charles Larmore - 1999 - Journal of Philosophy 96 (12):599.
Public reason.Charles Larmore - 2002 - In Samuel Freeman (ed.), The Cambridge companion to Rawls. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 368--93.
A theory of religious accommodation.Paul Bou-Habib - 2006 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 23 (1):109–126.
A Tale of Two Sets: Public Reason in Equilibrium.Gerald Gaus - 2011 - Public Affairs Quarterly 25 (4):305-25.

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