Criminal Law and Philosophy

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 479–492 | Cite as

On the Utility of Religious Toleration

  • Frederick SchauerEmail author
Original Paper


Brian Leiter’s Why Tolerate Religion? valuably clarifies the issues involved in granting religion-specific accommodations (and thus exceptions or exemptions) to laws and policies of general application. His arguments are careful, rigorous, and fair, and in rejecting the deontological arguments for religion-specific accommodations he seems to me largely correct. But when he turns to arguing against the utilitarian case for such accommodations, he employs a seemingly non-standard sense of utilitarianism in which demands of principled consistency constrain what would otherwise be utilitarian welfare-maximization. A more traditional and stronger version of utilitarianism, however, has room for seemingly unprincipled or even irrational distinctions as long as employing those distinctions is utility- or welfare-maximizing. And thus although Leiter’s arguments against the deontological justifications for religion-specific accommodations are largely successful, his arguments against utilitarian justifications, by relying more heavily on the notion of “principle” than a utilitarian should accept, are open to challenge.


Tolerance Religious tolerance Toleration Utilitarianism 



An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association in San Diego, California, on April 18, 2014. I am grateful to my co-symposiasts on that occasion—Brian Leiter, Cory Brettschneider, and Kenneth Taylor—as well as to Micah Schwartzman for valuable comments on the written draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of LawUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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