“The Conscience Wars: Rethinking the Balance Between Religion, Identity, and Equality,” (Mancini & Rosenfeld, eds.)

We’ve had occasion to observe before in this forum that equality seems to have become Conscience Warsthe overriding, master value of our time, particularly in the ongoing contests between religious rights and other rights of sexuality and equality, and even more particularly for academics writing in the field. Still, there remains disagreement among scholars on the subject. Here is a volume published by Cambridge that gathers authors to “rethink” the “balance” among these commitments: The Conscience Wars: Rethinking the Balance Between Religion, Identity, and Equality, edited by Susanna Mancini and Michel Rosenfeld. The book is rather tilted, however, in the direction of re-weighting and re-ranking values and interests against religious conviction and in favor of equality. Reviewing the list of contributors, it is somewhat striking, though not too surprising, that in a collection of more than 18 chapters (some with multiple authors), none of the contributors is much known in prior work for ranking religion comparatively highly in these contests.

In this work, Professors Rosenfeld and Mancini have brought together an impressive group of authors to provide a comprehensive analysis on the greater demand for religions exemptions to government mandates. Traditional religious conscientious objection cases, such as refusal to salute the flag or to serve in the military during war, had a diffused effect throughout society. In sharp contrast, these authors argue that today’s most notorious objections impinge on the rights of others, targeting practices like abortion, LGTBQ adoption, and same-sex marriage. The dramatic expansion of conscientious objection claims have revolutionized the battle between religious traditionalists and secular civil libertarians, raising novel political, legal, constitutional and philosophical challenges. Highlighting the intersection between conscientious objections, religious liberty, and the equality of women and sexual minorities, this volume showcases this political debate and the principal jurisprudence from different parts of the world and emphasizes the little known international social movements that compete globally to alter the debate’s terms.

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