How Should Claims For Religious Exemptions Be Weighed?

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Abstract
Many philosophers and jurists believe that individuals should sometimes be granted religiouslygrounded exemptions from laws or rules. To determine whether an exemption is merited in a particular case, the religious claim must be weighed against the countervailing values that favour the uniform application of the law or rule. This paper develops and applies a framework for assessing the weight of religious claims to exemption, across two dimensions. First, the importance of the burdened religious practice, which is determined by its level of obligatoriness and centrality, according to the beliefs of the individual claimant. Second, the extent of the burden on the practice, which depends on the cost the individual bears if she both undertakes the religious practice and obeys the law or rule, where costs are assessed using an impartial account of individual interests. Exemptions should be granted when claims are weighty on either of these dimensions and the countervailing value is relatively weak. The final section of the paper responds to an important objection to this approach, which concerns administrability.
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Archival date: 2017-01-05
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