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Who gets religious exemptions, and why?

February 28, 2013

Religious exemptions are troublesome in law: it’s not a good precedent to set, in general, if a person can claim to be above the law or not governed by it because of religious belief.  Since “religious belief” can mean quite literally almost anything, it’s hard to set firm boundaries on what beliefs can be the basis of exception and which cannot.  Generally, these boundaries tend to be around the rights of others and “higher priority” rights like the right to life, but we are seeing issues today regarding issues whose boundaries are far murkier.

The U.S. does have a history of religious exemptions, going all the way back to the beginning.  Some of the most recognizable ones are regarding taking oaths and fighting in the military, but it seems that requests for exemptions are becoming more frequent.

In this MPR program, you can hear John Witte, director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University and Richard Garnett, professor, University of Notre Dame Law School, discussing the history and impact of religious exemptions to laws.

Under revised rules of the Affordable Care Act, religious groups can be exempt from paying their employees’ insurance coverage for birth control. Religious exemptions are nearly as old as the nation and have been on the rise in recent decades.


From → News, Uncategorized

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