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35 Law & Phil. 1 (2016)

handle is hein.journals/lwphil35 and id is 1 raw text is: Law and Philosophy (2016) 35:1-28  © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015
DOI 10.1007/s10982-015-9246-9
(Accepted 24 September 2015)
ABSTRACT. Justifying religious exemptions is a complicated matter. Citizens ask
to not be subject to laws that everyone else must follow, raising worries about
equal treatment. They ask to be exempted on a religious basis, a basis that secular
citizens do not share, raising worries about the equal treatment of secular and
religious citizens. And they ask governmental structures to create exceptions in the
government's own laws, raising worries about procedural fairness and stability.
We nonetheless think some religious exemptions are appropriate, and in some
cases, that exemptions are morally required. So how are we to determine when
religious exemptions are justified? This article employs a public reason framework
to provide an answer. I show how to publicly justify religious exemptions. My
thesis is that a citizen merits a religious exemption under four conditions: (a) if she
has sufficient intelligible reason to oppose the law, (b) if the law imposes unique
and substantial burdens on the integrity of those exempted that are not off-set by
comparable benefits, (c) if the large majority of citizens have sufficient reason to
endorse the law, and (d) if the exempted group does not impose significant costs
on other parties that require redress. If these conditions are met, then legislative
and/or judicial bodies should carve out an exemption for those requesting them.
Religious exemptions are big news in the United States, due largely
to the Health and Human Services contraception mandate and the
gradual legalization of gay marriage. Little Sisters of the Poor, a
religious order devoted to hospice care, has requested an exemption
both from financing contraception for their employees and from
authorizing a third-party to do the same. Hobby Lobby, a nation-
* For helpful remarks on the paper, I thank Chad Van Schoelandt, Micah Schwartzman, Andy
Koppelman, Ben Bryan, Jerry Gaus, John Thrasher, two anonymous referees, and a number of
attendees at the 2015 Religion and Political Theory conference at University College London.

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