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

This event will take place in room 707 of the International Affairs Building, the Lindsay Rogers Room. Registration is required here. Rogers Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, will be speaking.

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.