Father John Neuhaus on Martha Nussbaum in the NY Sun: “The Liberty Of Conscience”

Father Richard John Neuhaus is skeptical of Nussbaum’s interpretation of the Religion clause in her book “The Liberty of Conscience.”   In this article, he suggests that:

“What Ms. Nussbaum does not see, or refuses to acknowledge, is that, both in theory and in lived experience, religious freedom in America was secured — and is today sustained — by religious conviction.”

and as a result:

“…she claims and clearly hopes, although in the absence of supporting evidence, that the growth of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other traditions is making America less Christian and more religiously diverse.”

Neuhaus seems to respect the depth of her thinking, but suspects her of partisanship.  He also seems upset that she does not include him, nor Christianity, into the rational-egalitarian project she’s promoting here in this interpretation of the Religion Clause, and also around the globe (we have free will enough to make moral choices, and we have worth just by being human).

Nussbaum draws on Aristotle and John Rawls for her ideas, and she’s listed ten rights in Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach (Cambridge, 2000), which could perhaps back Neuhaus’s claims of partisanship to some degree.

Her list includes the rights to emotion and to play (full list here).  While insightful, they seem like an American legal scholar and feminist’s attempt to extend egalitarianism, however usefully, as far as it will go, and there seem to be limits and problems that arise from this.

To respond to both Neuhaus and just this one part of Nussbaum’s wide-ranging work, I find Daniel Deudney’s advice for libertarians compelling because I certainly have doubts about Christianity, as well as Nussbaum’s list of rights:  the basic right of freedom from violence.

In fact, I’m not sure that the right to freedom from violence is an idea that feminists have always advocated.  Christians, too, preach it, but given its grim history, it’s not always practiced.

Perhaps Nussbaum will respond to Neuhaus.

Also On This Site:  From The Nation Via A & L Daily-’Back Talk: Martha Nussbaum’ From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

Addition: Perhaps she doesn’t need to.

See Also: Scott McLemee’s: What Makes Martha Nussbaum Run? available here.  Also for a full list of Nussbaum’s basic Human Capabilities, see Dr. Jan Garrett’s Martha Nussbaum On Capabilities and Human Rights found here.


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