In this comment I suggest that the “Freedom of the Church” to ignore the dictates of our various Civil Rights Acts, whether in the ministerial context or more broadly, created or at least newly discovered by the Court in Hosanna-Tabor, is a vivid example of a newly emerging and deeply troubling family of rights, which I have called elsewhere “exit rights” and which collectively constitute a new paradigm of both institutional and individual rights in constitutional law quite generally. The Church’s right to the ministerial exception might be understood as one of this new generation of rights, including some newly recognized by the Court over the last two decades, some with a slightly older lineage, and some sought after but not yet won by litigants—the point of which is to exempt their holders from legal obligations which are themselves constitutive of some significant part of civil society and to thereby create, in effect, separate spheres of individual or group sovereignty into which otherwise binding legal norms and obligations do not reach. They are “rights to exit” civil society and the social compact at its core, or at least, rights to exit some substantial part of it.
Robin West, Freedom of the Church and our Endangered Civil Rights: Exiting the Social Contract, in THE RISE OF CORPORATE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY, (Zoe Robinson, Chad Flanders and Micah Schwartzman, eds., Oxford University Press forthcoming 2015)
Scholarly Commons Citation
West, Robin, "Freedom of the Church and our Endangered Civil Rights: Exiting the Social Contract" (2015). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 1477.