Virtually everyone supports religious liberty, and virtually everyone opposes discrimination. But how do we handle the hard questions that arise when exercises of religious liberty seem to discriminate unjustly? How do we promote the common good while respecting conscience in a diverse society?
This point-counterpoint book brings together leading voices in the culture wars to debate such questions: John Corvino, a longtime LGBT-rights advocate, opposite Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis, prominent young social conservatives.
Many such questions have arisen in response to same-sex marriage: How should we treat county clerks who do not wish to authorize such marriages, for example; or bakers, florists, and photographers who do not wish to provide same-sex wedding services? But the conflicts extend well beyond the LGBT rights arena. How should we treat hospitals, schools, and adoption agencies that can’t in conscience follow antidiscrimination laws, healthcare mandates, and other regulations? Should corporations ever get exemptions? Should public officials?
Should we keep controversial laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or pass new ones like the First Amendment Defense Act? Should the law give religion and conscience special protection at all, and if so, why? What counts as discrimination, and when is it unjust? What kinds of material and dignitary harms should the law try to fight-and what is dignitary harm, anyway?
Beyond the law, how should we treat religious beliefs and practices we find mistaken or even oppressive? Should we tolerate them or actively discourage them?
In point-counterpoint format, Corvino, Anderson and Girgis explore these questions and more. Although their differences run deep, they tackle them with civility, clarity, and flair. Their debate is an essential contribution to contemporary discussions about why religious liberty matters and what respecting it requires.
About the Speakers
Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, and the Founder and Editor of Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ. A Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University, he earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Notre Dame. Anderson’s research has been cited by two U.S. Supreme Court justices in two Supreme Court cases.
His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the Harvard Health Policy Review, the Weekly Standard, and National Review. Anderson has appeared on ABC, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and the Fox News Channel. In addition to a memorable 2013 debate about marriage on CNN’s Piers Morgan Live, his news interviews include appearances on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CNN’s New Day with Chris Cuomo, MSNBC’s The Ed Show with Ed Schultz, and Fox News’ Hannity.
Sherif Girgis is a research scholar at the Witherspoon Institute. He is coauthor of the book “What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense” (Encounter Books, 2012), and of “Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination” (Oxford University Press, 2017). He earned his A.B. at Princeton University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude. After earning a master’s degree at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and a law degree from Yale, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal, Girgis returned to Princeton to do a Ph.D. in philosophy, where he is currently completing his dissertation. Sherif has written on social issues in academic and popular venues, including Public Discourse, National Review, Commonweal, the New York Times, the Yale Law Journal, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, and the Wall Street Journal, and has spoken at more than 80 lectures, conferences, and debates, both popular and academic.
“In our deeply divided nation, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination is a refreshing and hope-inspiring book. Provocative, clear, careful in argument, searching in coverage, it shows that people who strongly disagree can both find much common ground and also articulate their differences with respect and care, fostering a community of reason. It will be a wonderful book for undergraduate teaching, but it is also challenging for people well-versed in the subject, whether they agree or disagree.” — Martha C. Nussbaum, School of Law and Department of Philosophy, The University of Chicago
“One of the most important debates in our time is that it of religious liberty as it relates to controversies over sexuality and marriage. Sadly, usually most Americans don’t have these debates at all, content to stay in our silos and never engage with those who disagree with us. This book is different. Ryan Anderson, Sherif Girgis, and John Corvino model how to hold strong (very strong) opinions while debating others with respect. This book will equip you, wherever you stand, on how the “other side” from you thinks. If American society follows the lead of this book, our culture wars won’t end, but they just might be kinder and smarter. That’s a good start.” — Russell Moore, President, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention