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Equality and Conscience


We live with the legacy of injustice, political as well as personal. Even if our governments are now democratically elected and governed, our societies are scarred by forms of power and privilege accrued from a time in which people’s race, sex, class and religion were grounds for denying them a role in government, or in the selection of those who governed them. What does that past imply for the treatment of religion in democratic states? The problem is particularly pressing once one accepts that religious freedom is not just a matter of individuals’ freedom of conscience and worship, but of people’s claims to associate with others through institutions whose powers, status and commitment to equality are very different. (Laborde, 2015) If, on the one hand, this means that churches pose some of the same philosophical and practical problems as families, for those who care about democratic government, the fact that churches have no obvious point or justification, beyond being the repository of the claims to conscience of their members, appears to distinguish churches from families. In principle, this should make it easier to think about the claims of government, as compared to those of churches. In practice, as we will see, the fact that churches and other organisations of the faithful have no obvious point from a secular point of view, may bring into sharper focus the philosophical and political challenges to equality that democracies face.
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hal-02506491 , version 1 (12-03-2020)



Annabelle Lever. Equality and Conscience: Ethics and the Provision of Public Services. Cécile Laborde; Aurélia Bardon. Religion in Liberal Political Philosophy, Oxford University Press, pp.233 - 248, 2017, 9780198794394. ⟨hal-02506491⟩
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