June 20, 2019
Toward a Progressive Vision of Religious Freedom
Jason DeSantoSenior Lecturer, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law; Moderator
Katherine FrankeSulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Columbia Law School
Hon. William MarshallKenan Professor of Law, University of North Carolina School of Law
Melissa RogersVisiting Professor, Wake Forest University Divinity School; Nonresident Senior Fellow in Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution
Sirine ShebayaInterim Legal Director, Muslim Advocates
Providing exemptions from neutral laws for religious objectors used to be at the forefront of the progressive agenda. In fact, the leading case in this area was Sherbert v. Verner, a decision authored by Justice Brennan. Employment Division v. Smith, the case that overturned Sherbert, was written by Justice Scalia. Conservatives have since picked up the mantle of advocating for religious exemptions both under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause. How should progressives respond to conservative efforts to reinvigorate what was once progressive doctrine? Should progressives consider using RFRA to advance their own causes, for example, to assert a right to assist undocumented immigrants or to make decisions about their intimate lives? What would a contemporary progressive view of free exercise look like?
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