Against the Political Use of Religious Exemptions

Philosophy and Public Affairs 47 (3):319-342 (2019)

Authors
Brian Hutler
Johns Hopkins University
Abstract
Many religious freedom laws provide exemptions to persons who refuse to comply with certain laws on religious grounds. But these exemptions are increasingly used (by claimants and others) to advance political goals. For example, religious freedom lawsuits helped to undermine the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of coverage for contraceptives. And the recent Masterpiece Cakeshop case was part of a broader effort to protest the right to same-sex marriage. This paper argues that the state should not grant religious exemptions when they are used to advance political goals. A religious exemption creates a legal inequality between citizens that can only be justified if the protection is not used politically. As such, the state should ensure that laws providing religious exemptions are written, interpreted, and enforced so as to prevent their political misuse.
Keywords religious freedom  conscientious objection  civil disobedience  political participation  democracy
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DOI 10.1111/papa.12150
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