Religious Freedom and Conscience Exemptions
This curricular module introduces conscience exemptions as a pillar of law in the United States and highlights how the legal pursuit of religious freedom is a necessarily imperfect process. Michael Kessler explores how historical and contemporary notions of conscience have shaped the nature and scope of religious freedom in the United States in a 2016 essay on “Conflicted Ideas of Conscience” [open access]. Panelists focused on questions of religious freedom and conscience exemptions in American law as part of a 2012 panel [video] on “Religious Freedom and Healthcare Reform” [video].
Below, you can explore more resources on religious freedom and conscience exemptions, including an expanded module guide, with additional materials on religious freedom and conscience exemptions in health care, implications for conscience exemptions and LGBTQ rights in the Masterpiece Cakeshop (2018) decision, and the evolution of the notion of conscience.
These materials are designed to engage students with the following issues:
- conscience exemptions and religious freedom for health care policies and practitioners [“Religious Freedom for Healthcare Practitioners,” Berkley Forum; “Religious Freedom and Healthcare Reform,” video]
- lessons drawn from the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision on religious freedom and the relationship between free speech protections and LGBTQ rights [“What the Masterpiece Cakeshop Decision Means for the Future,” Berkley Forum]
- how understandings of conscience and religious conscience protections have changed over time [Kessler essay, Berkley Forum]
Instructors are encouraged to look through topics below and adapt these questions to their needs.