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Religious Freedom in a Polarized World

November 8, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm


Religious Freedom in a Polarized World

Thomas Berg, James Oberstar Professor of Law and Policy, University of St. Thomas School of Law

Americans are more polarized than ever before — and religious liberty, a basic constitutional value, is now among the polarizing issues. In recent high-profile cases involving same-sex weddings, Muslim immigration, and Obamacare insurance mandates, divisions on the religious-liberty issues have traced divisions over the underlying issues: progressives reject liberty claims for conservative Christians, while conservatives reject liberty and equality claims for Muslims. This is bad, because a key purpose of religious liberty is to calm conflicts, allowing people of fundamentally different views to coexist and each live consistently with their deepest views. But today religious-liberty disputes replicate, even aggravate, underlying divisions — and Americans may increasingly view religious liberty as no more than a tool in service of other goals.

Today more than ever, we must renew our commitment to religious liberty for all — even for “the thought we hate” (Justice Holmes). First, we should place a strong value on religious liberty; we have to balance that freedom with other values in a given dispute, but it should receive heavy weight in the balance. Second, liberty must extend equally to all faiths: we need to protect Muslims and conservative Christians (and others). It’s possible to protect religious freedom meaningfully while still giving meaningful weight to competing interests, as we should. We can reach solutions that protect both sides, and I will suggest some principles for doing so.

This lecture is sponsored by the Martin E. Marty Chair for Religion in the Academy


November 8, 2018
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
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