Whew. That was a lot of writing on Hobby Lobby last week, and a lot of reading. I hope it was helpful, interesting, or both. Now, fortunately, I’m finishing up, but I wanted to close with one broader thought, going beyond the purely legal RFRA question. (I should also note that this thought is even more tentative than some of the ones in the earlier posts, precisely because it’s about pragmatic and moral matters on which I’m not expert, rather than on legal matters.)
One common argument in favor of religious exemptions is that, if possible, people should be able to live full lives as Americans without having to violate their religious beliefs — even if that means that our legal system will change in some measure to accommodate those beliefs. In large measure, the American legal system has provided such accommodations. Indeed, at least throughout much of America’s history, it provided them far more than nearly all other countries.
This willingness, I think, has been a source of American strength. It has brought people of all religions to our shores, at a time when such immigration was vital to our prosperity. (I think immigration remains vital to our prosperity even today, but let’s set that debate aside for now.) It has helped America harness the energy of all its residents, minimizing the sense of alienation that religious minorities have felt.
And it has helped America largely avoid the religious conflicts of Europe, conflicts that the Framers were keenly aware could lead even to civil wars. The beneficiaries of such accommodations have been many and varied: Quakers, Catholics, Jews, and many more. I myself am not religious, but I think this tradition of accommodation is worth preserving (recognizing, of course, that not all practices should be accommodated, for the [...]