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Why Tolerate Religion?

Constitutional Commentary, Winter 2008

34 Pages Posted: 26 May 2006  

Brian Leiter

University of Chicago

Abstract

Religious toleration has long been the paradigm of the liberal ideal of toleration of group differences, as reflected in both the constitutions of the major Western democracies and in the theoretical literature explaining and justifying these practices. While the historical reasons for the special pride of place accorded religious toleration are familiar, what is surprising is that no one has been able to articulate a credible principled argument for tolerating religion qua religion: that is, an argument that would explain why, as a matter of moral or other principle, we ought to accord special legal and moral treatment to religious practices. There are, to be sure, principled arguments for why the state ought to tolerate a plethora of private choices, commitments, and practices of its citizenry, but none of these single out religion for anything like the special treatment it is accorded in, for example, American and Canadian constitutional law. So why tolerate religion? Not because of anything that has to do with it being religion as such - or so this paper argues.

Keywords: religion, toleration, jurisprudence

Suggested Citation

Leiter, Brian, Why Tolerate Religion?. Constitutional Commentary, Winter 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1012910

Brian Leiter (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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