Law, Religion, and the COVID Crisis

17 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2021 Last revised: 3 Nov 2021

See all articles by Mark Movsesian

Mark Movsesian

St. John's University School of Law

Date Written: September 28, 2021

Abstract

This essay explores judicial responses to legal restrictions on worship during the COVID pandemic and draws two lessons, one comparative and one relating specifically to US law. As a comparative matter, courts across the globe have approached the problem in essentially the same way, through intuition and balancing. This has been the case regardless of what formal test applies, the proportionality test outside the US, which expressly calls for judges to weigh the relative costs and benefits of a restriction, or the Employment Division v. Smith test inside the US, which rejects judicial line-drawing and balancing in favor of predictable results. Judges have reached different conclusions about the legality of restrictions, of course, but doctrinal nuances have made little apparent difference. With respect to the US, specifically, the pandemic has revealed deep divisions about religion and religious freedom, among other things—divisions that have inevitably influenced judicial attitudes toward restrictions on worship. The COVID crisis has revealed a cultural and political rift that makes consensual resolution of conflicts over religious freedom problematic, and perhaps impossible, even during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

Keywords: COVID, law and religion, religious freedom

JEL Classification: K10, Z12

Suggested Citation

Movsesian, Mark, Law, Religion, and the COVID Crisis (September 28, 2021). Journal of Law and Religion, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3936855 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3936855

Mark Movsesian (Contact Author)

St. John's University School of Law ( email )

8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States
718-990-5650 (Phone)
718-990-2199 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.stjohns.edu/academics/graduate/law/faculty/profiles/Movsesian

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
143
Abstract Views
583
rank
257,440
PlumX Metrics