Alternative Burdens on Freedom of Conscience

16 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2011

See all articles by Adam J. Kolber

Adam J. Kolber

Brooklyn Law School; NYU School of Law

Date Written: November 29, 2010


We sometimes exempt people from generally applicable laws when compliance would violate their rights of conscience. In “The Significance of Conscience,” Kent Greenawalt discusses a variety of issues about the proper scope and subject matter of claims of conscience. He argues that we should generally give nonreligious claims comparable treatment to religious claims but argues further that there are special reasons to accommodate religious claims that ought to factor into our deliberations.

In this brief comment, I discuss Greenawalt’s analysis and propose a method to avoid differentiating between religious and nonreligious claims, at least in many contexts. I describe “alternative burdens” that can be imposed on those who make claims of conscience that increase the likelihood that their claims are made sincerely and, if granted, are subsequently perceived as fair. The proposed approach makes it generally irrelevant whether a claim is founded on religious or nonreligious reasoning. (This comment was written for the University of San Diego School of Law Symposium, “Freedom of Conscience: Stranger in a Secular Land.”)

Keywords: Freedom of Conscience, First Amendment, Religion, Atheism, Conscription, Organ Donation

Suggested Citation

Kolber, Adam Jason, Alternative Burdens on Freedom of Conscience (November 29, 2010). San Diego Law Review, Vol. 47, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Adam Jason Kolber (Contact Author)

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

NYU School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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