Responsible Freedom Under the Religion Clauses: Exemptions, Legal Pluralism, and the Common Good

An Alpheus T. Mason Lecture on Constitutional Law and Political Thought: The Quest for Freedom

April 25, 2007

Angela Carmella, Seton Hall Law School

Professor Carmella makes the argument that exemptions for religious institutions (carved out of generally applicable laws that impede religious exercise) are capable of promoting not only religious freedom, but the common good as well. Religious exemptions can promote the common good both structurally, by maintaining the boundary between civil society and the state, and substantively, by giving religious institutions the freedom they need to help create social conditions for the full flourishing of the human person. Because religious exemptions affect the common good whether they are legislatively or judicially created, the article proposes their unified treatment under the free exercise and establishment clauses. In its attempt to balance freedom and social accountability, the article employs both constitutional doctrine and principles from Catholic social thought.

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