The Empty Idea of Equality Meets the Unbearable Fullness of Religion

In: Journal of Law, Religion and State
Rex Ahdar Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand;
Adjunct Professor, School of Law, University of Notre Dame, Australia, Sydney,

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The essay argues that religion is a much “fuller” concept than equality, as substantial and weighty as equality is derivative and hollow. The empty, tautological, misleading, but rhetorically powerful nature of equality was compellingly demonstrated by Peter Westen, a generation ago. It is ironic that, despite the manifest inadequacy of equality as an independent good, in the increasingly strident clashes between religionists and those asserting claims based on equal treatment, or freedom from discrimination, the former tend to lose on the whole. All rights are said to be on the same level. As the courts repeatedly pronounce, there is no hierarchy. But the empirical experience of the Kulturkampf belies that assertion. This essay seeks to return the contest to a more even playing field by demystifying some of the ascendant-like claims of equality in contemporary rights disputes.

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