(Communal) Life, (Religious) Liberty, and Property

66 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2017 Last revised: 12 Jan 2018

See all articles by John Infranca

John Infranca

Suffolk University Law School

Date Written: January 9, 2018


Property rights and religious liberty seem to share little in common. Yet surprisingly similar claims have long been made on their behalf, including bold assertions that each of these two rights uniquely limits the power of the state and serves as the foundation for other rights. This Article reframes the conception of property rights and religious liberty as foundational by foregrounding communitarian aspects of each right. Property and religious freedom are a foundation for other rights, but in a different manner than traditional accounts suggest. It is not the individual exercise of these rights that provides a foundation for other rights, but rather the complementary roles these rights play in the formation of normative communities that, in turn, serve as counterweights to the state.

This Article makes three distinct contributions to existing legal literature. First, it reveals the significant similarities in historical and theoretical conceptions of the foundational status of these two rights. Second, it integrates the developing scholarly literature on the communal and institutional nature of these two rights. Third, it builds upon this literature to contend that the right to property and religious freedom can indeed provide important foundations for rights more generally, but only if we sufficiently protect and nurture, through law, the communities and institutions upon which these rights depend. The Article concludes by suggesting new approaches to assessing a diverse set of contemporary legal disputes: religious communities seeking to locate in the face of local government opposition, Native American communities challenging government actions on sacred lands, and Sanctuary churches opposing immigration enforcement by sheltering individuals on their property.

Keywords: Property, Religion, Free Exercise, Progressive Property, Group Rights, Institutional Rights, Communitarianism, Human Flourishing, RLUIPA, Native American sacred sites, Sanctuary churches

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Infranca, John, (Communal) Life, (Religious) Liberty, and Property (January 9, 2018). Michigan State Law Review, p. 481, 2017, Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 17-16, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3018589

John Infranca (Contact Author)

Suffolk University Law School ( email )

120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

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