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Why Religious Freedom? Why the Religiously Committed, the Religiously Indifferent and Those Hostile to Religion Should Care

23 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2017  

Brett G. Scharffs

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Date Written: February 3, 2017

Abstract

Religious freedom: Is it the grandparent of human rights, or the neglected stepchild? As with most false dichotomies, the answer is both. But it is also the underappreciated core, or tap root, of human rights. Why should we care about religious freedom? For the seeker of religious truth, the answer may be obvious: Religious freedom creates the conditions, the “constitutional space,” for investigation and the pursuit of truth. But what about those who fall into other groups? What about the religiously committed – who are confident they are in possession of religious truth. Or the religiously indifferent – who are not much interested in religion or spirituality. Or those who are affirmatively hostile to religion – those who believe religion does more harm than good. Should they – should we – care about religious freedom? There are three reasons why we should all care deeply about freedom of religion (and belief). First, is the role of religious freedom as a historical foundation for constitutional, political, civil and human rights. Without freedom of religion and belief (FORB), the entire human rights project may collapse from its own weight. Second, FORB is necessary if we are to resist statism and other monistic views of state power. And third, we may not have the intellectual, political or rhetorical resources to defend conscience if we do not respect and protect FORB.

Suggested Citation

Scharffs, Brett G., Why Religious Freedom? Why the Religiously Committed, the Religiously Indifferent and Those Hostile to Religion Should Care (February 3, 2017). BYU Law Research Paper No. 17-01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2911086 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2911086

Brett G. Scharffs (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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