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Religious Conscientious Exemptions

24 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2011 Last revised: 16 Sep 2012

Yossi Nehushtan

Keele University - School of Law

Date Written: October 27, 2010


Several possible approaches can be applied by the state when it responds to religious conscientious objections. These approaches compare the response to religious-conscientious objections with that to non-religious objections. If the content of the objector’s conscience is significant when deciding to grant conscientious exemptions, three approaches to the practice of granting conscientious exemptions are possible: First, a non-neutral liberal approach that takes into consideration the content of the conscience but not its religiosity as such; second, a pro-religious approach; and third, an anti-religious approach. This paper contends that the non-neutral liberal approach and the pro-religious approach should be rejected in favor of an anti-religious approach to granting conscientious exemptions. The proposed anti-religious approach is as follows: (1) unjustified intolerance should not be tolerated; (2) empirical evidence links religion and intolerance – that is, people’s responses to measures of religion and intolerance are closely related; (3) theoretical evidence links (some) religions and intolerance; and (4) the religiosity of conscience gives the state a reason to refuse to grant conscientious exemptions.

Keywords: Religion, Religious Exemptions, Conscientious Exemptions, Tolerance

Suggested Citation

Nehushtan, Yossi, Religious Conscientious Exemptions (October 27, 2010). Law and Philosophy, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 143-166, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Yossi Nehushtan (Contact Author)

Keele University - School of Law ( email )

Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG
United Kingdom

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