Why Protect Religious Conscience?
Here, I will take a step back from my prior post, and address a much broader question: why should society provide special protections for religious conscience, as opposed to secular beliefs. For example, why should the state exempt from mandatory military service a religious person who adheres to a Pacifist faith, but not exempt a non-religious person who holds a Pacifist philosophy? Why does religion get preferential treatment, but philosophy does not? This question predates Fulton or RFRA or Smith or Sherbert or even the Free Exercise Clause. Why is religion special–so special, that it requires exemptions from civil laws?
To be sure, people today and in the past argue that religion is not special, and that it ought not receive any special protections. Religious groups, they contend, should be treated like any other faction–political, social, or philosophical. But under the contrary view, religious groups do stand in a different position than those who hold beliefs based on politics, social theory, or philosophy. Consider a hypothetical. Person A refuses to work on Saturday because that is the day she volunteers at a homeless shelter to feed the poor. That work is very meanin
Article from Reason.com