What Do Religious Corporations Owe for Burdening Individual Civil Rights
In the name of religious liberty, recent legislative initiatives by Christian nationalists seek broad legal exemptions from general law. This reflects an abiding antipathy to and a fear of the power of the state, the ultimate aim of which may be sovereignty for religious institutions. But, the claims of Christian nationalists are vulnerable to a series of critical objections. First, the rhetoric of religious liberty used by Christian nationalists plays on confusion between two senses of religious liberty – that of institutional religious freedom and that of individual freedom of religious conscience. These two senses need to be distinguished, since they are sometimes in fundamental conflict with one another, arguably to the extent of institutional religious freedom burdening individual religious conscience. Further, legal exemptions to general law that benefit particular religious institutions should also be recognized as gifts. They are not fundamental or inalienable rights. Therefore, granting such accommodations requires that religious communities benefitting from them should somehow reciprocate for their being exempted from common obligations under general law.
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