Lewis on Religious Freedom, the Common Good and the Contraception Services Mandate

V. Bradley Lewis (Catholic U. of America) has posted Religious Freedom, the Good of Religion and the Common Good: The Challenges of Pluralism, Privilege and the Contraceptive Services Mandate. The abstract follows.

The right to religious freedom is properly grounded in religion’s status as a fundamental and irreducible human good, which is nevertheless related to other goods and social in character. Its protection for persons and groups is therefore also a component of the common good of political society. After arguing for these propositions on broadly Thomistic philosophical grounds, the article discuses and answers three recent challenges. The first is based on a perceived conflict between recognition of the good of religion and pluralism and I argue that this objection can be met by distinguishing between different kinds of pluralism, most of which pose no problem to the thesis. A second objection comes from those outside the Thomistic tradition, who either reject the status of religion as a good deserving of explicit legal recognition and protection or accept it on inadequate grounds. The objections, I argue, are based on accounts of religion that are inadequate to the role it plays in sound practical reason. Finally, I discuss an argument from those within the Thomistic tradition who accept some limitations on religious freedom in the name of the common good. This third challenge is linked to the current controversy over the application of the US federal government’s insurance mandate to religious organizations and the US Catholic bishops’ response to it as an issue of religious freedom. Here I argue that the objection is based on a misunderstanding and misapplication of Aquinas’s account.

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