Why Protect Religious Conscience?

Source: The Volokh Conspiracy
by Josh Blackman

“Here, I will take a step back from my prior post, and address a much broader question: why should society provide special protections for religious conscience, as opposed to secular beliefs. For example, why should the state exempt from mandatory military service a religious person who adheres to a Pacifist faith, but not exempt a non-religious person who holds a Pacifist philosophy? Why does religion get preferential treatment, but philosophy does not? This question predates Fulton or RFRA or Smith or Sherbert or even the Free Exercise Clause. Why is religion special — so special, that it requires exemptions from civil laws?” (06/22/22)