Law, Religion, and Complicity

Tue, 05/08/2018 - 9:00am
Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building, Room 399
Event Category: 
Co-sponsored Event
Princeton University Community: Faculty, Fellows, Students, Staff

This conference addresses the latest round of conflicts between law and religious conviction. In these conflicts, religious adherents seek exemptions from general legal requirements on the grounds that the requirements would make them complicit in conduct their religion forbids. These are often difficult cases because sometimes the state can recognize the adherents’ rights to freedom of conscience only by risking or harming the equal standing of others in society. Thus Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, the 2014 Supreme Court case mounting a religious freedom challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, pitted conscience against reproductive rights. And a spate of wedding vendor cases – including Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado, which the Supreme Court is set to decide this term -- pit LGBTQ individuals who wish to marry against business owners who harbor religious objections to same-sex marriage and so want to be released from public accommodations laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

There are many points of contestation in these conflicts, and there is much room for scholarly engagement. Relevant questions include:

  • When and why should the state accommodate religious convictions?
  • What makes a given contribution morally implicating? And who should decide if it is – the state or the religious adherent who fears for his soul?
  • Does it matter that the party seeking an accommodation is an organization? A for-profit business?
  • Should the fact that the legally compelled contribution would involve speech or art matter for purposes of determining whether the state should offer an accommodation?
  • When is a state-sanctioned refusal of service an instance of state action?
  • When is compelled service or compelled speech attributable, as a matter of moral responsibility, to the person offering it?

At this conference, law and religion scholars will share work addressing these and related questions. Participants are expected to have read the conference papers in advance. For access to the papers, please email Kim Girman, More information and a detailed program to follow.

Organized by the University Center for Human Values.