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Should Religious Groups Be Exempt from Civil Rights Laws?

Martha Minow

Harvard Law School

Boston College Law Review, Forthcoming
Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 07-09

Should a private religious university lose its tax exempt status if it bans interracial dating? Should a religious school be able fire a pregnant married teacher because her continued work would violate the church's view that mothers of young children should not work outside the home? Should a religious social service agency, such as Catholic Charities, be exempt from a state regulation banning discrimination in the delivery of social services on the basis of sexual orientation? Should religious organizations be exempt from civil rights laws? This article argues that these questions raised difficult normative issues that have been answered practically by reference to the varying effects of historical social movements, producing the differential treatment of race, gender, and sexual orientation laws. The article explores avenues for negotiating solutions other than full exemptions or no exemptions. Besides the instrumental goal of solving - or avoiding - complex political and legal problems, this question of stance injects the dimensions of virtue ethics and value-added negotiation. In so doing the article proposes ways to pursue productive stances toward clashes over religious exemption claims is highly relevant to sustaining and replenishing both American pluralism and constitutional protections for minority groups.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 70

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Date posted: September 11, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Minow, Martha, Should Religious Groups Be Exempt from Civil Rights Laws?. Boston College Law Review, Forthcoming; Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 07-09. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1013417

Contact Information

Martha Minow (Contact Author)
Harvard Law School ( email )
1525 Massachusetts Avenue
Griswold 200
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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