Thursday, April 18, 2013

First Things (magazine) on "Why Tolerate Religion?"

First Things is a conservative Catholic intellectual magazine.  An unsigned editorial in the April 2013 issue opines that,

A recent book by...Brian Leiter outlines what may well become the theoretical consensus used to reinterpret the First Amendment.  "There is no principled reason," he writes in Why Tolerate Religion?, "for legal or constitutional regimes to single out religion for protection."  He buys the ideological [sic] attack on religion, describing religious belief as a uniquely bad combination of moral fervor and mental blindness.  It serves no public good that justifies special protection.  More significant--and this is his main thesis--it is patently unfair to provide it with such.  Why should a Catholic or Jew have a special right while Peter Singer, a committed utilitarian, doesn't?  Evoking the principle of fairness, Leiter argues that everybody's conscience should be accorded the same legal protections.  Thus he proposes to replace religious liberty with a plenary "liberty of conscience."

Without dwelling on some of the mischaracterizations of my argument (the general thrust of it they have right), it's striking to me that they believe this "may well become the theoretical consensus used to reinterpret the First Amendment."  I would welcome that, but I don't expect it to happen in my lifetime.  I do think there's more potential in Canada and the European countries, many of which
already recognize "liberty of conscience," but have yet, in practice, to extend that much beyond religious claims of conscience.  (Of course, I also think there should be no exemptions from laws respsecting the principle of toleration and that promote the general welfare, unless those exemptions do not shift burdens on to others.)

Jurisprudence, Of Academic Interest | Permalink