Program on Religious Accommodation
The issue of religious exemptions—claims by religious objectors that they have a right to be exempt from laws that offend their religious beliefs—is exploding. With the example of the controversy over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act uppermost in mind, the issue of exemptions for religiously affiliated institutions promises to be a hot button issue in the next presidential election. The controversy over "Obamacare" is just one of a proliferating number of religious exemption claims. Challenges to anti-discrimination law are the tip of the iceberg, and advocates for civil rights now recognize that religious exemption claims represent the new frontier in the war on anti-discrimination law.
At the same time, advocates for religious rights see the fight for religious accommodation as their civil rights movement. The stage has thus been set for a political confrontation not only with, but within, the framework of civil rights. Beyond anti-discrimination law, claims to religious exemptions threaten to carve out holes in environmental law regimes, in public health frameworks—indeed, there is no limit to the potential reach of claims to religious accommodation, and such claims are garnering more support than they ever have before.
Under the direction of Prof. Nomi Stolzenberg, the USC Program on Religious Accommodation aims to create an interdisciplinary framework for examining these complex issues and the “age of accommodation.” The moment is ripe for analysis of the fundamental issues and clashing rights and values that underlie the current controversy over religious accommodation.