Freedom to Serve: Religious Organizational Freedom, LGBT Rights, and the Common Good
Religious Freedom, LGBT Rights, and The Prospects for Common Ground (William Eskridge, Jr. and Robin Fretwell Wilson eds., Cambridge University Press 2018)
20 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2019
Date Written: 2019
Recently, religious organizations seeking protection from government restrictions have emphasized that they seek “freedom to serve” others in their anti-poverty, social-service, healthcare, or educational work. The U.S. Catholic bishops have made that phrase central to their campaign for religious liberty in disputes over organizations’ objections to same-sex marriage, the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, and other rules. This argument, defending religious freedom based on its contribution to social good, is worth examining in detail. Although the “common good” argument raises complications, this Chapter asserts that when properly defined, the argument reflects a legitimate, indeed important strain in America's tradition of religious-freedom rights. In a roughly analogous way, the chapter asserts, constitutional rights to same-sex-marriage found support in considerations of the common good as well as individual autonomy. Recognizing this parallel, and others, between marriage rights and religious-freedom rights might encourage us to give weight to both. The chapter then catalogs the contributions of religion and religious organizations, responds to objections that may be raised, and suggests principles for the proper scope of religious freedom in light of other interests.
Keywords: Religious organizations, religious freedom, LGBT rights, same-sex marriage, common good, civic virtue, religious nonprofits, religious social services, religious accommodation, empirical contributions of religious organizations, partly acculturated organizations
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