91: Religious Law

A Thousand Things to Talk About
91: Religious Law


Should countries or communities be able to create laws that reinforce a religious majority’s beliefs or opinions?

Show notes and links:
IV: Shunning and Excommunication in American Tort Law (
The truth about Homeowners Associations (CBS47 Jacksonville)
Religious Legal Systems in Comparative Law: A Guide to Introductory Research (GlobaLex)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations)

Full episode text

The right to create a community – to make purposeful connections with those with whom you wish to be connected – is not specifically laid out in international law. The International Declaration of Human Rights does outline that every individual has the right to nationality, and to change nationality, as well as the rights to freedom of thought, opinion, and expression, and the right to freedom from interference.

Many communities, both as political organizations as well as social organizations, form around a shared set of values, which are sometimes religious. The conflict seems to arise most often when laws that support or reinforce one particular set of beliefs comes into conflict with members of that community that may not necessarily hold beliefs.

Think about homeowner’s associations, which in the U.S. are given extraordinarily wide latitude to enforce limitations on their communities that can be very, very strict – and sometimes based on a particular “type” of individual that is not welcome there.

There’s also wider political laws, such as Utah state’s infamous limitations on the consumption of alcohol. True, one can be said to have the choice to live in a particular community or nation – or not – yet there are often outside factors ranging from employment to the inability to secure funds to move to family to language keeping someone in a community. So should they ‘do as Romans do” and live under a religious law they have not chosen, or freely express themselves while risking exclusion from a community?