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Populism and Religion: Religious Accommodations and “Equal But Different” Citizenship

Politics of the Present

  • The Institute for Religion in Contemporary Life
  • Department of Political Science
  • Jean Cohen
  • Registration required. See details.

Populism and Religion Pt. II, Rogers Smith:
Religious Accommodations and "Equal But Different" Citizenship


Even as controversies continue to rage over preferential treatment for racial and ethnic minorities, many religious conservatives are contending with mounting intensity that their religious liberty is endangered if they are not exempted from a wide range of statutory and even constitutional requirements, including duties to provide medical insurance coverage for contraceptives; to refuse to serve LGBTQ customers; to refrain from endorsing political candidates if they wish to retain tax exemptions; and others. This paper argues that public policymakers, including courts, should subject all denials of such accommodations to strict scrutiny, granting exemptions unless their denial is necessary for compelling state interests. Religious accommodations, like other forms of differential treatment, often can advance goals of egalitarian civic inclusion and reduce resentments that contribute to conservative populist movements-- so long as the exemptions do not go so far as to represent acquiescence in denials of basic rights of persons.