Respect for Persons and the Restricted Use of Religious Reasons in Public Justification
Arguably the dominant paradigm in the contemporary political theory, political liberalism (PL) maintains that exercise of political power solely on the basis of religious reasons is morally tainted. According to PL theorists, for a policy proposal to be publicly justified, its underlying rationale must be spelled out in terms those affected can be reasonably expected to accept. While the proponents of PL differ in their construal of the reasonable acceptability criterion, most agree that religious reasons are particularly ill suited to satisfy it. They (1) invite metaphysical and normative commitments that other citizens might reasonably reject, and (2) appreciation of their validity depends on the kinds of experiences that many non-religious citizens cannot be expected to have. Consequently, in so far as they act in their political capacity, religious citizens ought to exercise restraint and justify their decisions on the grounds of secular reasons, or, in special circumstances, on the grounds of religious reasons that admit of a secular analogue. Baring in mind that most religious creeds dictate strict and unvaiwering opinions on a number of political issues, which hardly admit of a secular analogue, the restriction seems to impose significant burden on religious adherents. Probably the most familiar argument for restraint is the argument from ‘respect for persons’. This argument will be the focus of the paper. First, I briefly unpack the structure of PL, providing the normative tools for interpreting and evaluating the concept of respect for persons. Second, I offer two possible interpretations of the concept of respect, arguing that they either do not provide unequivocal support for restraint or demand more comprehensive foundations than PL is able to provide. In the end, due to space constraints, I only gesture toward a possible strategy for reinforcing the respect argument by supplementing it with auxiliary premises.