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  • Print publication year: 2002
  • Online publication date: December 2009

3 - Justificatory Liberalism

Summary

INTRODUCTION

We have good reason to believe that for the foreseeable future, large numbers of citizens will bring their religious commitments into the public square. As a consequence, we face the question: what role may a responsible citizen's religious convictions play in his political practice? The justificatory liberal answers: a responsible citizen may support a coercive law on the basis of his religious convictions, but not on the basis of his religious convictions alone. That answer derives from the justificatory liberal's commitment to public justification: the claim that respect for his compatriots forbids a citizen to support a coercive law for which he can't discern a public justification provides a principled basis for the claim that a citizen ought not support a coercive law on the basis of his religious convictions alone. My intention in this chapter is to explicate that principled basis and thereby to explain why, according to justificatory liberals, a citizen ought not support a coercive law on the basis of religious convictions alone.

THE CONSTITUTIVE COMMITMENTS OF JUSTIFICATORY LIBERALISM

First, a word of caution. My explication of justificatory liberalism distills what I take to be common concerns and commitments from many heterogeneous sources – from a variety of texts that have been published over a number of years, texts that employ widely varying idiolects, that address a multiplicity of problems, that contain ambiguities, inconsistencies, shifts of conviction.