Law, Religion, and Reason in a Constitutional Democracy: Goodman v. Rawls

Political Theology 16 (2015): 543-559

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper

19 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2017 Last revised: 29 Jul 2019

See all articles by John Witte

John Witte

Emory University School of Law

Justin Latterell

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

This article responds to Lenn Goodman’s book, Religious Pluralism and Values in the Public Sphere (2014). Part I evaluates Goodman’s argument that John Rawls excludes “comprehensive” religious and moral arguments from public discourse. Part II analyzes Professor Goodman’s prediction that it will be practically difficult to enforce Rawlsian standards of public reason, and then shows how this is the case in U.S. constitutional law wherein American courts have had difficulty applying “secular purpose” norms to contested legislation. Part III describes more recent trends in constitutional law that accommodate religious pluralism in laws and legislative processes. The authors argue that Goodman’s interpretation of Rawls should be tempered by fuller engagement with Rawls’s later writings, which were relatively open to the substantive roles of religion in public reason and public discourse. They further argue that recent trends in U.S. constitutional law may promote the types of pluralistic discourse that Goodman and the later Rawls advocate.

Keywords: Lenn Goodman; John Rawls; liberalism; religion in public life; secularism; secularization; secular purpose test; neutrality; values; pluralism; civility; comprehensive doctrines; United States Supreme Court; First Amendment; Establishment Clause; secular purpose test; Lemon v. Kurtzman; Lynch v. Don

Suggested Citation

Witte, John and Latterell, Justin, Law, Religion, and Reason in a Constitutional Democracy: Goodman v. Rawls (2015). Political Theology 16 (2015): 543-559 , Emory Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2897695

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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Justin Latterell

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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