Law 792:  Meaning of Tolerance

This course will explore significant questions of tolerance facing a diverse nation, as people who are different on all kinds of metrics (ethnicity, faith, race, national origin, geographic location, relative wealth, education) navigate questions about how best to live together.

This course will examine burning debates around tolerance today. For example, watching the news, it may seem that advocates for marriage equality for LGBT individuals and proponents for protections for the religious convictions of people of faith live in different worlds and could never find common ground. But is that necessarily the case? What might tolerance mean in this context?

This course will also consider what tolerance might mean in the context of child welfare and our respect for one another’s faith. When, for example, is a parent’s choice not to treat or vaccinate a child—or to discipline a child—an act of faith and when is it an abhorrent crime? When is a teen’s marriage an act to be celebrated and when is it an act for concern? These questions sit at cross currents in the law—challenging notions of religious liberty and equal protection under the law. They also test the limits of the law’s ability to affect behavior and the state’s parens patraie role as the protector of children.

These questions increasingly arise around religion as fewer people self-identify as part of an organized faith tradition. But they also implicate rights for LGBT people, immigrants, racial minorities, and other vulnerable populations—challenging legislators and policymakers to find new, creative ways to respect all people in a plural society.

It will canvas some of these debates using readings from The Contested Place of Religion in Family Law, which examines the contested place of religion in the legal landscape of the family after Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores, Obergefell v Hodges, and Zubik v Burwell. The class will collectively decide on topics to cover towards the end of the semester, as well. 

Sequence and Prerequisites: This course requires no pre-requisites, only an open and creative mind.

Evaluation: Three reflection papers.

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