In Why Tolerate Religion? Brian Leiter, author of the Leiter Reports blog and a law professor at the University of Chicago who has an interest in philosophy, asks why Western democracies have sought to promote and protect religion—and religious liberty—in both law and culture.
He explores this question because he’s puzzled by it. As he sees things, “no one has been able to articulate a credible principled argument for tolerating religion qua religion … why, as a matter of moral principle, we ought to accord special legal and moral treatment to religious practices” (emphases throughout are original). He argues that there is no reason that religion should be protected above and beyond any claim of conscience. Indeed, the book’s dust jacket synopsis perfectly captures his view: “Western democracies are wrong to single out religious liberty for special legal protections.” A bold conclusion. Here’s how he gets there.