ABSTRACT

This chapter develops an account of selective exemptions from the law as an effective compromise mechanism for ameliorating some conflicts of loyalty and reconciling religious citizens to their political society in stability-enhancing ways. Whereas most defenses of religious exemptions cast them as a means of respecting liberty of conscience or religious equality, this chapter emphasizes their function as a mechanism for political stability. However, the enterprise of exempting certain citizens from laws that continue to bind others has the potential to generate stability-undermining side effects. Therefore, there are limits on the desirability of religious exemptions, and efforts must be made to balance an exemption’s benefits to stability against any offsetting detriments or challenges it is likely to generate. The chapter concludes by considering whether the reasons for accommodating religious beliefs apply equally well to non-religious moral beliefs and, if so, what limits on accommodation of non-religious beliefs are appropriate.