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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Behavior v Belief: Free Exercise as a constitutional or statutory right

Marcia Hamilton has a very interesting article regarding attempts by conservative Christians to validate their right to do anything they want under the guise of "free exercise." This would dismantle statutorily the government's right to control behavior; it could conceivable find itself at odds with Reynolds v United States (the famous polygamy case in which Justice Waite said the government could not control belief but could indeed regulate behavior.)  As Hamilton's article points out, some conservative Christians want to have the right to physically punish their children (beat v spank depending on your point of view) and not worry about being charged with child abuse, hiding behind the free exercise clause.

"As we know from the history of RFRAs, these free- exercise statutes are hard for Americans to resist.  Those who vote for them may simply think, “What could be wrong with more religious liberty?”  The short answer is that this is a zero-sum game.  When the religious actor gets more latitude to break the law, the persons whom that law was intended to protect lose that protection."
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