June 15, 2012

Conscience in the Public Square

Jay D. Wexler

Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law
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William P. Marshall

William Rand Kenan, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law
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Louise Melling

Deputy Legal Director, Director of the Center for Liberty, American Civil Liberties Union
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Thomas C. Berg

James L. Oberstar Professor Of Law and Public Policy, University of St. Thomas School of Law
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Melissa Rogers

Director, Center for Religion and Public Affairs, Wake Forest University Divinity School; Nonresident Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution
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To what extent should religious practices be accommodated in the public square and when must claims of conscience be subordinated to other interests? Should exemptions protect both religious and secular conscience? These questions underlie many current real-world controversies, including the debate over government-mandated contraceptive coverage under the new health care reform law, the decision by Catholic Charities to cease being a public adoption provider in certain states because of the requirement that they be open to placing children with parents regardless of sexual orientation, and pharmacists’ refusals to fill “Plan B” prescriptions. Where are the fault lines and how should legislatures and administrative agencies navigate them? What are the legal limits on granting or denying exemptions based upon religious conscience?