At a law and religion conference at Seton Hall’s law school yesterday, Rob Vischer, a law professor at St. Thomas, gave a fascinating talk that touched on the debate over religious exemptions—the question whether religiously oriented individuals and businesses should be protected from discrimination claims. This issue arose when a photo shop was sued for refusing to provide photography services at a gay wedding, and in cases challenging pharmacists’ refusal to dispense birth control or abortion pills. Vischer argues that the cases should focus less on the parties’ competing claims of conscience than on whether the declinations genuinely interfere with the plaintiffs’ access to these services (in many of these cases, they don’t). Among other things, such a shift might better protect the ability of businesses and other associations to govern themselves as they see fit.
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