Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Many of our conversations on MoJ relate to religious liberty, and we should be concerned about how our legal system's commitment to religious liberty is carried out across faith traditions. My colleague Greg Sisk has a new paper out (with Michael Heise) examining the data regarding religious liberty claims by Muslims. Here's the abstract:
In our continuing empirical study of religious liberty decisions, we find that Muslims asserting free exercise or accommodation claims were at a distinct and substantial disadvantage in the lower federal courts for the period of 1996-2005. Holding other variables constant, the predicted likelihood for success for non-Muslim claimants in religious free exercise or accommodation claims was approximately 38 percent, while the predicted probability for success for Muslim claimants fell to approximately 22 percent (with the disparity being slightly higher among court of appeals judges). In sum, Muslim claimants had only about half the chance to achieve accommodation that was enjoyed by claimants from other religious communities.
Drawing on insights from legal studies, political science, and cognitive psychology, we discuss alternative explanations for this result, including (1) a cultural antipathy to Muslims as a minority religion outside the modern American religious triumvirate of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews; (2) growing secularism in certain sectors of society and opposition to groups with traditional religious values; (3) the possibility that claims made by Muslims are weaker and deserve to be rejected on the merits; and (4) the perception that followers of Islam pose a security danger to the United States, especially in an era of terrorist anxiety. Presenting a new threat to religious liberty, the persistent uneasiness of many Americans about our Muslim neighbors appears to have filtered into the attitudes of even such well-educated and independent elites as federal judges.