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My topic differs from the usual inquiries about morality and law, such as how far law should embody morality, whether legal interpretation (always or sometimes) includes moral judgment, and whether an immoral law really counts as law. Concentrating on exemptions from ordinary legal requirements, I am interested in instances when the law might make especially relevant the moral judgments of individual actors. I am particularly interested in whether the law should ever treat moral judgments based on religious conviction differently from moral judgments that lack such a basis.

A striking example for both questions is conscientious objection to military service. In the history of our country, objectors to military service have received exemptions from conscription; even in our present volunteer army, those who develop a conscientious objection to participation in any war are relieved from military duty they would otherwise have to perform as a consequence of their initial commitment to service. The law as it is now written requires that an objection be based on "religious training and belief." The Supreme Court has interpreted the law to include all genuine conscientious objectors.


Law | Law and Society | Religion Law