Exemptions from legal requirements, especially religious exemptions, have been a major topic of political debate in recent years. For example, bakers in various states have sought the right to refuse to make wedding cakes for gay and lesbian couples, despite the Supreme Court's validation of same-sex marriage. Many parents are granted exemptions from vaccinating their children, despite public health laws requiring otherwise. Various religious organizations as well as some corporations have sought an exemption from the requirement to provide contraceptive coverage in employee healthcare plans, as required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Religious exemptions have a long history in the United States, but they remain controversial. Exemptions release some people from following laws that everyone else must follow, raising questions of fairness, and exemptions often privilege religious belief, raising concerns about equal treatment. At the same time there are good reasons to support exemptions, such as respect for the right of religious freedom and preventing religious organizations from becoming too closely intertwined with government. The essays in this volume represent valuable contributions to the complex debate about exemptions from legal requirements. In particular, they contribute to the moral dimensions of religious exemptions. These essays go beyond legal analysis about which exemptions are constitutionally appropriate, and ask instead when religious exemptions are morally required or morally prohibited.
Kevin Vallier is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green State University, whose research focuses in political philosophy, normative ethics, political economy, and philosophy of religion. Vallier is the author of Liberal Politics and Public Faith: Beyond Separation (Routledge, 2014) and Must Politics Be War?: In Defense of Public Reason Liberalism, forthcoming with Oxford University Press. Michael Weber is Professor of Philosophy and Department Chair at Bowling Green State University. He has published on a wide variety of topics in ethics and political philosophy, including rational choice theory, ethics and the emotions, and egalitarianism. He has also co-edited with Christian Coons three edited volumes on topics in applied ethics: Paternalism (Cambridge University Press), Manipulation (Oxford University Press), and The Ethics of Self-Defense (Oxford University Press).