Mark David Hall on Religious Accommodations and the Common Good
Date: July 3rd, 2016

The issue of special exemptions to laws based upon a person’s religious views has been a hot topic in the news lately (e.g., Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor, and Arlene’s Flowers).  Prof. Mark David Hall, the Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics at George Fox University and a senior research fellow at Baylor’s ISR, reviews the history of such religious accommodations to federal and state statutes.  As an expert witness in the State of Washington vs. Arlene’s Flowers case, he began to study the depth and scope of exemptions to various laws based upon one’s conscience and published this as a separate paper entitled “Religious Accommodations and the Common Good” (Heritage Foundation’s Backgrounder).  He explains the term “common good” and how it relates to religious accommodations, asserting that when we have “Americans at their best,” our nation is sensitive to the sincerely-held religious beliefs of religious majorities and minorities alike.  Historically, America has grown more religiously free over time, leading to greater religious diversity.  As federal and state government power has expanded, especially in the 20th century, the need for more religious accommodations has also grown, often in new areas.  We step back in history to look at some of the policy areas where such accommodations have been made, including military service, the swearing of government oaths, mandatory school attendance, and vaccinations.  Quakers, often (though not exclusively) known for their pacifism, have been at the forefront of many of these struggles for accommodations, and Mark reveals how various compromises were made to satisfy the “common good” and the specific religious interest.  He notes that exemptions from combat service did not necessarily exempt one from military (or civil) service altogether, as many Quakers and other conscientious objectors were asked to take non-combatant roles (e.g., medics).  Other religious groups such as the Amish, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Adventists have received similar accommodations on various statutes and the number of religious accommodations granted numbers over 2000 as of the mid-1990s.  We briefly discuss whether and how such accommodations could be abused by individuals seeking to avoid various laws including military service and vaccinations, and whether this has been a major problem (which it appears not to be).   Prof. Hall finishes with some observations on the contemporary legal landscape and where he thinks legislation and jurisprudence may be heading in the near future.  Recorded: June 27, 2016.



Prof. Mark Hall’s bio at George Fox University and Baylor’s ISR.

Religious Accommodations and the Common Good,” by Mark David Hall in The Heritage Foundation’s Backgrounder.

Faith and the Founders of the American Republic, edited by Daniel L. Dreisbach and Mark David Hall.

Roger Sherman and the Creation of the American Republicby Mark David Hall.

 America’s Forgotten Founders, by Gary L. Gregg and Mark David Hall.

The Sacred Rights of Conscience, edited by Daniel L. Dreisbach and Mark David Hall.

See Prof. Hall’s bio (above) for additional books.


Should Christians Have Fought in the U.S. War of Independence? (Discover Prof. Hall’s answer.)

Mark David Hall on Religious Minorities in the American Founding.

Mark David Hall on Roger Sherman, Puritan Patriot.

Mark David Hall on Religion and the Founding Fathers.

John Inazu on the Four Freedoms, Religious Liberty, and Assembly.

Rajdeep Singh on American Sikhs and Religious Liberty.

Jonathan den Hartog on Patriotism and Piety.

Michael McConnell on Church Property Disputes.

Francis Beckwith on Taking Rites Seriously.

Matthew Franck on Hosanna-Tabor and Ministerial Exemptions.

Matthew Franck on Hobby Lobby and Religious Freedom Jurisprudence.

David Cortman on Religious Freedom Updates.

One Response to “Mark David Hall on Religious Accommodations and the Common Good”

  1. Michael McBride says:

    Another excellent podcast.

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