Public, Private, Religious? Religious Freedom Restoration Acts in the U.S. States
Quaderni Costituzionali, No. 3 (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2015 Forthcoming)
8 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2015 Last revised: 8 Dec 2015
Date Written: August 22, 2015
Written in English for the leading Italian constitutional law journal, this short essay reads the recent controversies over religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs) in Indiana and other states as a boundary conflict between the “public” and the “private.” After brief accounts of the origin of state RFRAs generally and the Indiana RFRA in particular, the essay argues that the hostility to Indiana’s RFRA was rooted in the perception that its supporters were seeking to impose on others the costs of a prototypical “private” activity — personal religious belief and practice — in what have come to be viewed as “public” spaces — housing, the for-profit workplace, and commercial retail businesses. The lesson of Indiana is that even in culturally conservative states, believers may lack the social power to maintain their private religious values in public spaces where those values are not uniformly or widely shared.
Keywords: Culture Wars, Indiana RFRA, LGBT rights, public-private distinction, RFRA, religious exemptions, religious freedom, same-sex marriage
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