Is belief in old St. Nick unreasonable?

One of the great things about religious liberty is the ability to believe unreasonable things.

– Professor Andrew Koppelman of Northwestern Law, speaking yesterday at the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention, on a panel about religious freedom.

(If you’re curious, a little explanation appears after the jump.)

At a panel yesterday that my former boss moderated, Professor Koppelman and William Galston of the Brookings Institution mixed it up a bit with Professor Robert George of Princeton, one of the foremost opponents of gay marriage (or marriage equality or same-sex marriage; pick your term).

In his remarks, Professor George painted a depressing picture of the future for opponents of gay marriage. He argued, in a nutshell, that supporters of gay marriage will not stop until they have painted religious opponents of gay marriage as nothing more than bigots.

Although he supports gay marriage, Professor Koppelman does not support playing the bigot card against people who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds. And he does not support using anti-discrimination laws to go after religious people who don’t want to provide wedding-related services — catering, photography, etc. — to gay couples. (I happen to agree with him on both points; see also Tamara Tabo’s excellent column for more on the issue.)

Playing devil’s advocate, Galston asked: Why? How is applying anti-discrimination laws to service providers who reject gay couples any different from applying such laws to service providers who discriminate on the basis of race?

Professor George tried to distinguish the situations by saying that belief in racial superiority, unlike opposition to gay marriage, is not a reasonable view that can reasonably held by reasonable people acting in good faith. And that’s when Professor Koppelman pointed out — correctly again, in my view — that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment contains no reasonableness requirement.

2013 National Lawyers Convention [Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy]

Earlier: Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks — And Oh What A Speech!
Why Using Anti-Discrimination Laws Against Wedding Photographers Doesn’t Work


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