Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Religious freedom "among", not "against", civil rights

Following up on Marc's response to Dale Carpenter's post on the "weaponization" of RFRA:  Dale expresses concern about RFRA-type laws being used as a "sword against civil rights."  It is not my impression that those of us who support RFRA-type accommodation regimes expect or want them to be used in such a way.

As I see it -- and as I tried to set out in this short forthcoming paper -- the conversation about how to manage the conflict between some religious-liberty claims and some equality and non-discrimination claims has to proceed from an appreciation for the facts that "religious liberty" *is* a civil right and that the enterprise of protecting civil rights includes -- it has to include -- care for religious liberty.  Here is the abstract:

This paper expands on a presentation at a recent conference, held at Harvard Law School, on the topic of “Religious Accommodations in the Age of Civil Rights.” In it, I emphasize that the right to religious freedom is a basic civil right, the increased appreciation of which is said to characterize our “age.” Accordingly, I push back against scholars’ and commentators’ increasing tendency to regard and present religious accommodations and exemptions as obstacles to the civil-rights enterprise and ask instead if our religious-accommodation practices are all that they should be. Are accommodations and exemptions being extended prudently but generously, in as many cases and to as many persons and entities as possible, in a sincere effort to welcome religious minorities, objectors, and dissenters as fully as we can into what Justice Harlan called “the dignity and glory of American citizenship”? What barriers exist to the promotion and achievement of civil-rights goals through religious accommodations and how might these barriers be overcome? Are civil-rights laws being designed and enforced in ways that guard against unintended or unjustified disregard for or sacrifices of the civil (and human) right to religious liberty?


Garnett, Rick | Permalink