Religious pluralism is at once the cause of and a substantial impediment to theorizing about religious freedom. The purpose of theorizing in law is typically to impose order on an unruly collection of phenomena - of seemingly conflicting decisions, or doctrines, or legal arguments - and to do so by articulating and elaborating the foundational truths that govern the subject in question. In a condition of religious pluralism, however, theorists typically suppose that it is impermissible to appeal to contested religious beliefs. But these are the very beliefs that would provide the natural foundations for thinking about the proper relation between government and religion (and that at least until relatively recently did provide the foundations for such thinking). This essay, written to provide a succinct "state of the art" review of current approaches, describes and assesses the various ways in which modern theorists of religious freedom have addressed this fundamental difficulty.
Date of this Version
Steven Douglas Smith, "The Pluralist Predicament: Contemporary Theorizing in the Law of Religious Freedom" (March 2004). University of San Diego Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper Series. Working Paper 5.