Suzanna Sherry

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Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues

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I have argued that the government may not single out any irrational beliefs for preferential treatment, nor is it required to treat alternative epistemologies as favorably as Enlightenment rationality. Both history and practical considerations support the notion that the Constitution rejects epistemological pluralism in favor of the primacy of reason. There is no evidence that the religion clauses are an exception to this basic principle; indeed, for the founding generation, pre-Enlightenment religion was the primary--and perhaps the only---example of a nonrational epistemology. If we allow government decisions to be made on the basis of, or influenced by, premises and conclusions that fly in the face of the Enlightenment's rationalist and empiricist methodology, we must accord the same consideration to Holocaust deniers--and to racists, flat-earthers, and other peculiar or dangerous believers-as we do to religious believers. To do otherwise is for the government to accept as true the claims of particular religious believers--a course of action that is dangerous to government and religion alike, and is therefore wisely rejected by the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses.

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