PHIL 338A:  Homework #4 (15 Points—Due in Class on Wednesday Nov. 7). 

Page limit = 2 double-spaced pages

 

            NOTE:  To receive full credit, you must attend class ready to discuss the homework (unless your absence is excused).  Do not skip class or come late to section in order to finish your homework.  If you do, you will receive an extra penalty on your grade for the assignment. 

 

            RELIGIOUSLY BASED GENDER DISCRIMINATION.  Imagine a society in which there is a strict separation of religion from government.  However, the religions themselves engage in and endorse discrimination on the basis of gender among their members.  Examples of such discrimination would be the kinds of discrimination in Islam discussed by An NaŽim, the strict divisions between activities appropriate for men and activities appropriate for women in orthodox Judaism, and the exclusion of women from the priesthood in Roman Catholicism.  (Can you think of other examples of discrimination actually practiced by some religion?)  Here is your assignment:

(a) Select an example involving religious discrimination on the basis of gender.  Briefly describe the example.  It is important to select an example for which a strong argument can be made both for and against permitting the discrimination to take place.  If you choose an example for which there are no good arguments for permitting the discrimination or no good arguments for prohibiting the discrimination, your grade for that portion of your answer will be reduced.

(b) (5 Points) Make the strongest argument you can in support of a right to religious freedom that includes the freedom to practice the kind of gender-based discrimination you identified in part (a).

(c) (5 Points) Make the strongest argument you can that a right to religious freedom should not include the kind of gender-based discrimination you identified in part (a).  In this part of the assignment, you would be arguing that the government is justified in making the practice illegal and in intervening to force the religion to stop the practice.

(d) (5 Points) State your position on whether the practice should be included in a right to religious freedom or not and explain why you hold it.  In your explanation, you need to address the argument on the other side. 

 

To do part (b) of this assignment, you have to provide philosophical not religious arguments for why the government should permit religions to engage in the relevant kind of discrimination.  Let me illustrate the difference:

            (1) "My religion should be allowed to discriminate against women because God commands it" is a religious argument for discrimination that might be based on a sacred text of my religion.

            (2) "The government should tolerate Religion R's discrimination against women because each religion should be free to act on the commandments of its religious authorities" is a philosophical argument for guaranteeing a right to religious freedom that includes allowing Religion R to discriminate against women.

            In your homework, I expect reasons of kind (2), not of kind (1).