Three Conceptions of Religious Freedom

Kenneth L. Marcus

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law

May 4, 2012

This essay explores three strands of thought that intertwine in the American legal literature of religious freedom, which can roughly be characterized as individualist, institutionalist and peoplehood. These conceptions correspond roughly to the three historically prominent American religious groups, respectively, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. The three conceptions, viewed together, provide a pluralist approach to religious freedom which may be stronger than any of the three alone could provide. This has important implications for how courts and agencies should respect the fundamentally different claims which religious groups make upon the concept of freedom. This paper was prepared for the Israel Democracy Institute’s International Conference on the Role of Religion in Human Rights Discourse in Jerusalem.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 20

Keywords: Religion, institutions, individualism, religious, freedom, equality, First Amendment, Freedom of Religion, Fourteenth Amendment, Equal Protection, minorities, Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Sikhism

JEL Classification: J70

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Date posted: May 5, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Marcus, Kenneth L., Three Conceptions of Religious Freedom (May 4, 2012). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2051199 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2051199

Contact Information

Kenneth L. Marcus (Contact Author)
The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law ( email )
1776 I Street, N.W., Suite 900
Washington, DC 20006
United States
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