, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 271-283

The Politics of Judicial Public Reason: Secular Interests and Religious Rights

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Abstract

This paper seeks a better understanding of the role of public reason in alimenting or defusing religious conflicts by looking at how courts apply it in deciding cases arising out of them. Recent scholarship and judicial decisions suggest, paradoxically, that courts can be biased towards either the secular or the religious. This risks alienating both religious majorities and religious and secular minorities. Judicial public reason is uniquely equipped to protect minorities, and its costs to religious majorities may be mitigated by accepting religious morality and identity claims in the political and legislative realm. Despite the political fragilities of judicial public reason, it is not intrinsically hostile to religious claims. It ought in fact to be fully equipped to recognize the equality and religious freedom rights that religious groups and individuals might assert in pursuing exemptions from general secular laws. Judicial public reason does have the potential to defuse religious conflicts, however much it falls short in practice.