Wednesday, May 29, 2013
I've posted an article with that title on SSRN, here (subtitled "Reflections on thr HHS Mandate"). As some of you know, I think that one of the most severe threats to religious freedom today--especially the freedom of religious organizations--is the prospect of it becoming a value of which political progressives are skeptical in principle, and which is associated only with conservatives. I therefore think it's vital at this juncture to make arguments for religious freedom that aim to reach people in the center and center-left. This piece, written for an excellent roundtable on "Freedom of the Church" sponsored by the University of San Diego Law School, is a first journal-article effort at doing so. I don't underestimate the depth of tension between a wide scope of freedom for religious organizations and certain features of political progressivism, but I also think it's crucial to appeal to as many common grounds as possible--and I believe there are important ones--as part of the overall case for religious freedom. (The project also has a personal element for me, as some will know, since I have a fundamental commitment to religious freedom and also myself in the center-left on a lot of issues and principles.) Abstract:
The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate to cover contraception is the latest in a series of disputes that have made conflicts between politically progressive laws and traditionalist religious beliefs a pervasive feature of the American religious-freedom landscape. This article examines the foundations of the conflict and argues that progressives should support significant protections for faith-based service organizations such as social services and schools. There are sharp ironies when progressives exclude faith-based service organizations from religious-freedom protection, as the HHS mandate originally did. Service to others lies at the core of religious exercise; progressives more than anyone should affirm this; and accommodating such organizations meaningfully both preserves civil liberty and recognizes the overall contributions they make to progressive social goals, such as assisting the needy, even if they conflict with progressive positions on some deeply-felt issues. On the other side, traditionalists have sometimes failed to respect others' liberties, and that has hampered their ability to claim protection from government imposition as a matter of reciprocity, which would otherwise be a strong argument.