James W. Nickel


This article proposes that we view freedom of religion as a specific application area of more general basic liberties such as freedoms of thought, expression, association, assembly, movement, privacy, political participation, and economic activity. Separate enumeration of freedom of religion in national and international bills of rights may be useful, but it is not indispensable. In this respect freedom of religion is more like scientific freedom or artistic freedom than like freedom of expression. Recognizing that separate enumeration of freedom of religion is dispensable has salutary consequences for how we conceive and justify freedom as it applies to religion. First, we see that the general grounds of the basic liberties will also be the grounds of religious freedom. Second, we gain a broad and ecumenical scope for freedom of religion that extends into areas such as association, movement, politics, and business. Third, this perspective helps us avoid a narrow clause-bound focus in interpreting freedom of religion. Finally, this approach helps us resist exaggerating the priority of freedom of religion