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Religious Monopolies and the Commodification of Religion

57 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2009  

Brett G. Scharffs

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Elizabeth Sewell

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Shima Baradaran Baughman

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: May 2005

Abstract

In recent years, the number of countries in which a dominant church receives state aid and other forms of preferential treatment has increased. Dominant religions and their supporters in the former Soviet bloc and elsewhere often argue that special benefits and protection are warranted based upon the unique history and contribution of the dominant church to the identity, history, and culture of the country, and the interests of the state and its citizens. Because of the distinctive status of religion and its importance to national and cultural identity, special protection, especially against foreign and other outside influence, is deemed necessary. Although the spiritual realm is putatively treated as being a special situation requiring special protection, the arguments in favor of religious
protection bear a curious resemblance to arguments in favor of protection made by monopolists and other protected industries in the economic sphere. This article compares the arguments in favor of protection made by dominant religious groups with arguments in favor of protection by monopolists and protected industries, and concludes that in their pleas for special treatment, religious monopolists make arguments that closely parallel the arguments made by their economic counterparts. Rather than resulting in religion being treated as unique and different, protectionist arguments result in religion being treated much like any other market commodity. We conclude that because religious freedom is a fundamental human right, arguments promoting state protection of dominant religions should be viewed with suspicion.

Keywords: First Amendment, religion, monopoly, church and state

Suggested Citation

Scharffs, Brett G. and Sewell, Elizabeth and Baughman, Shima Baradaran, Religious Monopolies and the Commodification of Religion (May 2005). Pepperdine Law Review, Vol. 32, No. 885, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1516205 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1516205

Brett G. Scharffs

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

Elizabeth Sewell

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

Shima Baradaran Baughman (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States

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