Must Democracy Be Secular?
By Robert Audi
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution famously states in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. …” How are these two provisions related? Do they presuppose that democracy should be secular?
Does the implicit church-state separation require government neutrality toward religion? How free is
free exercise? Should individuals also separate the religious and the political? Religious citizens often
want to be guided by their faith in shaping their society; but given that they live with others of different
religions (or none), should their political conduct be guided mainly by secular standards? To say yes
seems to limit religious liberty. To say no seems to risk religious conflict or even domination by a majority religious group. This essay presents a partial solution to this problem by proposing principles concerning the justification of lawmaking in pluralistic democracies.