Vocation, Expressive Conduct, and Religious Liberty

42 Pages Posted: 19 May 2018

See all articles by Paul Barker

Paul Barker

Columbia University, Law School, Students; Columbia Law Review

Date Written: January 16, 2018


Recent scholarship on religious liberty claims, perhaps following the lead of litigants raising claims for religious exemptions in the wake of Obergefell, has largely focused on arguments that certain forms of business activity are “expressive conduct” that government cannot compel. This Note aims to shift the focus of the debate, by arguing that the expressive conduct line of argument distracts from the real collision these cases involve, between two kinds of identity that are both worthy of protection. This Note's argument is twofold. First, it invokes the concept of vocation, understood as a religious obligation or set of obligations regarding work-related conduct, to suggest that, for many, how one acts in one's work is a key part of one's religious identity. Second, it argues that the concept of vocation can, and does, impose meaningful limits on the availability of exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, mitigating the fear that allowing such exemptions will eviscerate the law's ability to protect against discrimination.

Keywords: religious exemptions, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Obergefell, anti-discrimination, religious liberty, vocation

Suggested Citation

Barker, Paul, Vocation, Expressive Conduct, and Religious Liberty (January 16, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3173309 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3173309

Paul Barker (Contact Author)

Columbia University, Law School, Students ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

Columbia Law Review ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

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