Plant, R. Res Publica (2011) 17: 7. doi:10.1007/s11158-011-9140-8
This article examines the issues raised by religious adherents’ wish to express their beliefs in the public domain through, for example, their modes of dress, their performance of public roles, and their response to homosexuality. It considers on what grounds religion might merit special treatment and how special that treatment should be. A common approach to these issues is through the notion of religious identity, but both the idea of religious identity and its use to ground claims against others prove deeply problematic. An alternative and more productive approach is through the notion of harm. People should enjoy the freedom to express their religious convictions subject to the harm principle, but harm should include the undermining of people’s status as free and equal citizens. The article concludes by considering the grounds upon which this alternative approach might recognize religion as special and might justify giving an overriding status to civic equality.
Freedom of religious expressionReligious identityAccommodationEqualityCivic egalitarianismHarm principleLiberalism