n South African Law Journal - Is there a right to religious exemptions?

Volume 129, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-2503
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2177



This article enquires whether religious claimants are ever entitled as a matter of right to exemptions from laws of general application. The author considers various responses to the objection that religious exemptions are unfair and shows that arguments purporting to demonstrate that religion is distinctive in a way that marks it as meriting special constitutional solicitude in the form of exemptions fail. This essay then surveys and assesses the plausibility of four prominent kinds of argument in support of recognising a right to religious exemptions, with reference to arguments offered by the Constitutional Court in putative justification of this right. The four kinds of arguments are as follows: arguments grounded on respect for conscience (understood as perceived moral duties); arguments relating to equality of opportunity; egalitarian arguments; and arguments grounded on respect for conscience (understood as the faculty with which individuals search for ultimate meaning).

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