Monday, December 03, 2007

Religion Versus Generally Applicable Laws

I'm usually not a big fan of Professor Stanley Fish, but on his New York Times blog, Fish raises the interesting question of whether the free exercise of religion requires that exceptions be made from generally applicable laws. In this case the question revolves around monkey meat, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and African religious practices.

Professor Fish puts the question quite succinctly:

Do we begin by assuming the special status of religious expression and reason from there? Or do we begin with the rule of law and look with suspicion on any claim to be exempt for it, even if the claim is made in the name of apparently benign religious motives?

I agree with Professor Fish that there are no good answers here- but I'd also add that this is yet another argument for a more libertarian form of government. The more laws there are regulating personal, moral behavior, the more likely these conflicts are to occur. And is monkey meat a personal, moral, religious issue? Well, just ask a Hindu about cows.


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