The Religiously Encumbered Self
How we view the self, acting as moral agent, will inevitably affect our interpretive actions when a statute and a religious obligation conflict. The classic liberal ontology of the self (“voluntarist”) is self‐unencumbered and free to choose his or her beliefs. The natural conclusion to which the courts are led by the voluntarist conception of the self is that the religious adherent made a free and voluntary choice to break the law, an obviously bad choice. What is lost in the voluntarist conception of religious liberty is that a religious practice is not an isolated and free choice but is, rather, an integrated and integral part of a belief system or “framework.” The religious adherent is in fact an encumbered self whose world construct cannot be easily altered in order to make a choice that is alien to that framework.
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