Alllllrigghty: I have the readings for next Thursday (March 21)—and the question to which the two arguments respond:
Does religious freedom require exemption from laws of general applicability?
- YES: Evangelicals & Catholics Together, In Defense of Religious Freedom, First Things, March 2012
- NO: Austin Dacey & Colin Koproske, Against Religious Freedom, Dissent, Summer 2011
“Laws of general applicability” refers to neutral laws which do not refer to or otherwise target religious belief and expression, although they may incidentally affect that expression, and was first used by the Supreme Court in the Smith decision. An example: while marijuana is used by Hindus to celebrate Holi, laws outlawing marijuana use do not infringe on the rights of Hindus since the prohibitions apply to all persons, not just Hindus.
While the question is framed as one concerned with religion and the law, it’s worth also considering the role of religion in society and whether religion ought to be granted a special authority in culture. That is, even if you don’t think religion should be granted legal exemptions, should it be accorded extra cultural respect?