Equality as a Basis for Religious Toleration:
A Response to Leiter
Published online: 16 June 2016
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
Abstract In this short essay, I respond to Brian Leiter’s Why Tolerate Religion. I focus on
two criticisms. First, I argue that Leiter’s own theory depends on an unacknowledged ideal
of equality, and that equality is central to the utilitarian and Rawlsian bases for religious
toleration that he draws upon in his book. Second, I argue against Leiter’s allowing, in
certain circumstances, the state to establish religion and to promote religious conceptions
of the good.
Keywords Free exercise Establishment Religious freedom
In Why Tolerate Religion Brian Leiter contends that religious views should not be treated
differently than secular beliefs and practices.
Developing an important theory of religious
toleration that has afﬁnities with the work of Chris Eisgruber and Lawrence Sager, Leiter
argues that religious views are entitled to a variety of protections but that the rights of the
religious must have some secular equivalent.
Leiter applies his theory to the question of whether religious beliefs can justify
exemptions to otherwise valid general laws.
Some legal scholars have defended these
Brown University, Providence, RI, USA
Here Leiter criticizes the view of Andrew Koppelman that religion should have a special status beyond
secular beliefs of conscience. See Andrew Koppelman, Defending American Religious Neutrality (Cam-
bridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013).
Christopher L. Eisgruber, and Lawrence G. Sager, Religious Freedom and the Constitution (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).
Brian Leiter, Why Tolerate Religion (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), 14.
Crim Law and Philos (2016) 10:537–546