Philosopher Robert Talisse just interviewed me for New Books in Philosophy about my new book, Liberal Politics and Public Faith: Beyond Separation. You can listen or download the audio file here or download the podcast in iTunes through New Books in Philosophy. It was a great discussion and we were fortunate to be able to cover as much ground as we did. I share a bit of autobio you might find interesting. And we get into the controversies surrounding religions exemptions towards the end.

Also, you may have missed my Cato Unbound symposium on religion in the public sphere, so if you’re interested in a quick summary of my position, go here.

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In the spirit of Kevin V.’s post, here’s a sampling of left-libertarian opinion on the Obergefell ruling:

Cory Massimino: Marriage Equality: Don’t Let the Good Become the Enemy of the Perfect

Sheldon Richman: The Libertarian Case for Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

Joe Szymanski: The Goal is Free Love

Thomas L. Knapp: Life After Obergefell: Survival Tips for the Dismayed

As a bonus, here’s a related left-libertarian piece from a few months earlier:

James C. Wilson : Same-Sex Marriage is Not Enough: Separate Marriage and State

And finally, a piece of mine from a few years back on the “definitional” question: Victory Through Lexicography?

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Many of us are quite interested in marital policy for gays and lesbians, so I thought you might find it interesting to look at some short philosopher responses on the matter. You can find a number of thoughtful comments at the Daily Nous, a popular philosophy blog, here.

Here’s my (non-representative) remark:

The United States has reached a new legal settlement: gays and lesbians may legally marry, and same-sex married couples are entitled to all the rights and benefits of heterosexual married couples. It is hard to deny that this is step towards justice. But for the new legal regime to be stable and enduring, we are now faced with the difficult challenge of determining how to treat persons of faith who reject same-sex marriage and homosexual sex as immoral and sinful.

At present, many people of faith merely ask to be able to live a life in accordance with their moral and religious beliefs (reflect on the measured response of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America). Few would deny them that liberty in principle. But to what extent should people of faith be allowed to shape their institutions around their beliefs? Clearly the state should not attempt to alter church doctrine or ordination practices, nor should the state compel clergy to perform same-sex weddings against their will. But how much further should religious liberty reach?

Consider: Bob Jones University did not admit African-American students until 1971, and continued to discourage interracial dating for many years thereafter. In response, the IRS removed the university’s tax exemption in 1976 (extending retroactively to 1970). Their objections (based on the religion clauses in the first amendment) made their way up to the Supreme Court in 1982 and, in 1983, Bob Jones lost. They were not deterred. The university continued prohibiting interracial dating, paying a million dollars in back taxes. Bob Jones didn’t officially drop the rule until George W. Bush spoke there in 2000, which led to major public criticism.

Many readers will think that the government has the authority, even the duty, to deny Bob Jones tax exempt status, given their constant, aggressive attempts to diminish the dignity of African-Americans. In this case, I agree.

But here’s the tricky philosophical question: in the name of moral symmetry between discrimination based on race and sexual orientation, should the IRS pursue similar strategies with religious institutions that prohibit same-sex dating, teach that homosexual sex is immoral, and regard same-sex marriage as a theological absurdity? To put it starkly: should the IRS strip public funding and tax exempt status from every non-compliant theologically orthodox school and university in the United States (not to mention thousands of non-educational organizations)? If you think this goes too far, what’s your reason?

I think the federal government should treat the two cases differently for both principled and pragmatic reasons. If you think the same treatment is appropriate, I invite you to imagine hundreds of thousands of sincere, informed Muslims, Jews and Christians engaged in civil disobedience, quickly converting their (potentially alterable) opposition to same-sex marriage into the mark of a martyr. A free, egalitarian and pluralistic society can find a better solution. But what is the most philosophically defensible and pragmatically effective alternative to the Bob Jones treatment?

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