Monday, April 23, 2012

Are religiously informed public policy proposals legitimate?

Christian philosopher Francis Beckwith analyzes the claim that the claim "of courts and legal theorists who argue that religiously informed policy proposals have no place in a liberal democracy because the religious worldviews from which they herald are at their core unreasonable, for they are dependent on irrational beliefs."
The judicial opinions, most of which affirmed or implied the irrationality of religious belief, did not surprise me, since the jurists who wrote them are often unacquainted with the sort of literature on the rationality of religious belief that has been the staple of Anglo-American philosophy for nearly five decades. 
What did surprise me were the legal theorists. Their ignorance was embarrassing ...
... The legal theorists I read all claim to be experts in law and religion, and their works appear in law reviews published by prestigious universities. And yet, I could not find in them a hint that they had even a superficial acquaintance with the vast literature on religion and rationality produced by religious (and some non-religious) thinkers (mostly philosophers) over the past fifty years. 
... It should not surprise us, then, that when political conflicts between church and state arise that academic and media elites treat the church’s point of view as if it were an irrational outlier to contemporary culture. As I have come to reluctantly realize, they simply do not know any better, since their education insulated them from views contrary to the unquestioned secular hegemony that was ubiquitous in their intellectual formation.
Read the rest here.

1 comment:

KyCobb said...


If a religiously informed proposal is rational, then it should have no problem withstanding a constitutional challenge. If the only reason you can give for a proposal is because it is your sect's interpretation of God's will, then that won't stand up in court, because the government of the U.S. is neutral on religious beliefs. So, for example, if someone claimed that it was unconstitutional to teach evolutionary theory in public schools because it is compatible with Catholic theology, that challenge would fail since it is rational to teach evolution because it is good science.