Hobbes, Locke, RFRA’s, and Wedding Photographers

JMC Fellow and Michigan State Professor Benjamin Kleinerman writes here for the Liberty Law Blog.  In this piece, he draws on Hobbes and Locke as two alternatives to approaching religion. Based on that analysis, he turns to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and its state state equivalents as ” a case study” on the Hobbesian and Lockean in contemporary America. Kleinerman writes:

“… [W]hereas Hobbes’s sovereign secularism insists on, and enforces, uniformity of belief, Locke’s liberal state is secular even as it also tolerates and thus protects the religious liberty of the various groups within it. Of course, toleration only goes so far; Locke does not think we ought to tolerate religious groups that practice or teach things that threaten to take down this secular and tolerant order.

A commitment to toleration, in other words, need not tolerate the intolerant. A balance must be struck between tolerating religious liberty and permitting religions that threaten the civil order.

This is all to say that modern liberalism has two paths from which to choose. It can either embrace a Hobbesian commitment to secular uniformity so that we are no longer threatened by those odd people practicing odd religions. Or it can embrace a Lockean commitment to toleration and to the religious liberty which that entails. The second path is in some ways more difficult, requiring a constant balancing between civil society’s secular legal framework and the religious liberty that does not always comfortably comport with secularism.”

Read the full piece here.