Religious Convictions and Lawmaking

In Part I, I introduce the subject of liberal democracy, rationality, and religion. I explain briefly why this subject merits our attention. I then indicate variant positions about it and my own summary conclusions. I develop a partial model of our liberal democracy from which the issue can be addressed in context. I next consider two kinds of concrete social issues, consenting sexual acts among adults and the protection of animals and the natural environment. During this treatment I indicate more fully how religious convictions affect judgments about desirable laws, and I analyze the claim that good citizens should not rely on such convictions.

In Part II, I tackle the controversial problem of abortion; consider welfare assistance, a critical issue of distributive justice; and discuss one of the most sensitive of the traditional church-state issues, public aid to sectarian education. These various topics form the basis for generalizations about when reliance on religious conviction is and is not appropriate. I also offer some glancing comments on the priority of justice, the idea that political issues should be settled on the basis of a shared conception of justice, not on the basis of controversial conceptions of the good.

In Part Ill, I shift from simple reliance of citizens on religious convictions to a number of closely related issues. I discuss the appropriate grounds of public political discourse and comment briefly on the responsibilities of religious leaders and organizations. I then tum to the role of public officials and ask whether legislators and judges properly rely on religious convictions. Finally, I end with a genuinely legal inquiry: what kinds of religious underpinnings for a law may render it unconstitutional.