Three Conceptions of Religious Freedom
20 Pages Posted: 5 May 2012
Date Written: May 4, 2012
This essay explores three strands of thought that intertwine in the American legal literature of religious freedom, which can roughly be characterized as individualist, institutionalist and peoplehood. These conceptions correspond roughly to the three historically prominent American religious groups, respectively, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. The three conceptions, viewed together, provide a pluralist approach to religious freedom which may be stronger than any of the three alone could provide. This has important implications for how courts and agencies should respect the fundamentally different claims which religious groups make upon the concept of freedom. This paper was prepared for the Israel Democracy Institute’s International Conference on the Role of Religion in Human Rights Discourse in Jerusalem.
Keywords: Religion, institutions, individualism, religious, freedom, equality, First Amendment, Freedom of Religion, Fourteenth Amendment, Equal Protection, minorities, Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Sikhism
JEL Classification: J70
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation