Granting Conscientious Exemptions: The Need to Take Sides
Keele University - School of Law
March 7, 2012
Religion and Human Rights, Vol. 7, pp. 31-58, 2012
There are several possible views of the proper way in which the state should respond to claims to be granted conscientious exemptions. This article discusses, and ultimately rejects, two main approaches to the issue of granting conscientious exemptions: the neutral approach and the ‘equal-regard’ approach. According to the neutral approach the decision whether to grant an exemption should not be affected, at least not directly, by the content of a person’s conscience. The equal-regard approach suggests that, when an exemption is granted to a non-religious conscientious objector, an exemption should also be granted to his equivalent religious objector, and vice versa. It is suggested that the state has to take sides and to evaluate the content of one’s conscience in order to decide whether to grant him an exemption from the law. The general argument that intolerance should normally not be tolerated provides one reason, among others, why the content of someone’s conscience is significant when deciding when to grant conscientious exemptions.
Keywords: conscientious exemptions, religious exemptions, tolerance, liberalism
Date posted: March 8, 2012