Religious Liberty vs. Anti-Discrimination: Toward a ‘Political Settlement’

Anderson and Girgis warn against a ‘progressive Puritanism’ that attempts to ‘coerce conscientious dissenters to live by the majority’s views.’

The authors’ thought-provoking essays, presented in a point-counterpoint format, broadly address religious liberty, tolerance, and discrimination, providing a valuable framework from which to assess public policy as it relates to these questions in the context of intimate matters including marriage, sex, and child rearing.

 

In a new book, three scholars make the argument that a pluralistic society can be both pragmatic and principled.

Thanks to the work of three young American scholars, a new and invaluable primer is the latest tool helping to make sense of the country’s current culture wars. In Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, John Corvino, Ryan T. Anderson, and Sherif Girgis boldly tackle the ongoing legal and cultural battles in which matters of faith and fairness appear opposed and poised to further divide an already divided nation.

The authors’ thought-provoking essays, presented in a point-counterpoint format, broadly address religious liberty, tolerance, and discrimination, providing a valuable framework from which to assess public policy as it relates to these questions in the context of intimate matters including marriage, sex, and child rearing.

The book begins with an important introduction to our country’s history of religious freedom and to how the “close connection between civil liberties, religious liberties, and limits on government power is reflected in the combination of rights reinforced by the First Amendment.” Readers are reminded, for example, that the First Amendment’s religion clauses and guarantees of freedom of speech, press, assembly, and petition were designed and are still meant to “work together.”

The essays address recent federal and state legislation that sets standards for when the government can impinge on freedom of religion. The authors note that the Supreme Court relied on one such law, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), in its Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor decisions, in which it struck down the contraception mandate of the Affordable Health Care Act in the case of objecting privately held corporations and religious institutions.

The authors had finished their book before the Supreme Court’s decision last month in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer. There the Court held that the exclusion of a church from a public benefit solely because it is a church is “odious to our Constitution” and therefore cannot stand. (Although the printing press outpaced precedent in this case, that hardly diminishes the book’s overall value.)

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