Mark Tunick
Florida Atlantic University
A liberal pluralist state recognizes that its members exercise a variety of religions or hold diverse comprehensive doctrines, and strives for neutrality so that none is favored. Neutrality can come into tension with the demands of individuals to express their religion in public spaces. I focus on a display of a “finals tree,” that many regard as a Christmas tree, on the campus of a public university, a display objected to by a small minority of non-Christian faculty and students who claim it makes them ‘outsiders’ and should be removed. While display of a Christmas tree doesn’t violate the First Amendment because the Court has ruled it is a secular symbol, resolving that legal issue doesn’t resolve the ethical issue of which side should accommodate the other. To address that, I turn to traditional theories of Kant and Mill, who would side with the tree displayers, who are causing no harm and restricting no one else’s liberty. Finding this resolution wanting, I develop a modified version of Jeremy Waldron’s ‘adequacy’ principle, which has us be sensitive to the aims of others when our actions keep them from adequately pursuing their legitimate aims, so long as accommodating them does not keep us from adequately pursuing our own. I depart from Waldron in arguing that in assessing each side’s claims we should sometimes conduct a limited inquiry into the sincerity of one’s religious reasons, and this inquiry would not be incompatible with liberal pluralism’s requirement that we appeal to public reason.
Keywords religious freedom, liberal pluralism, toleration
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The Idea Of An Overlapping Consensus.John Rawls - 1987 - Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 7 (1):1-25.

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