Freedom For Religion

Richard John Neuhaus reviews Liberty of Conscience by Martha Nussbaum, in the New York Sun:

Nussbaum_martha_3Martha Nussbaum straddles several disciplines, holding appointments in the philosophy department, the law school, and the divinity school at the University of Chicago. In her new book, “Liberty of Conscience” (Basic Books, 406 pages, $27.50), she reminds us that she also straddles cultural and religious traditions, having ancestors who came over on the Mayflower and having converted from liberal Episcopalianism to liberal Judaism of the Reform persuasion. Thus does she embody, so to speak, the diversity that she champions in this spirited work of advocacy.

Almost every word of the book’s title raises interesting questions. Is “liberty” the same thing as religious “free exercise”? Does the “free exercise” of religion mean “religious equality”? Are “conscience” and “religion” interchangeable terms? And is her account of “America’s tradition” consistent with the legal history and lived experience of our country? These are all questions very much worth debating, and on all of them Ms. Nussbaum has strong opinions that she advances with an air of great self-confidence, and at length. One wonders if the book really needs to be all of 400 pages. But then, she is covering a truly enormous territory.

More here.