Pluralism & Stability: A New Approach to Religious Accommodation
Boyd, Richard A.
Freedom to hold and act on one’s deepest commitments is a basic liberal commitment, but religious beliefs routinely conflict with the requirements of the law. The question then arises: when (if ever) do sincerely-held religious beliefs warrant a dispensation from legal obligations? Legal and political philosophers alike have struggled to formulate a coherent and satisfactory resolution to this challenge presented by pluralism, generally theorizing exemptions as a matter of equality. I explore an alternative approach that has not been extensively theorized, despite the centrality of its basic concern: stability. I argue that the political goal of stability can shed light on both the challenges and opportunities presented by pluralism, and can provide normative guidance for addressing conflicts in practice. Moreover, the stability-based framework I defend is largely consistent with core liberal commitments. I argue that stability supports some exemptions to relieve citizens of religious burdens and to support the flourishing of diverse moral communities, which, I argue, are indirectly supportive of stability. I engage with legal scholarship and American jurisprudence on religious accommodation to provide novel takes on past and present cases.
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