Speaker: Benjamin A. Kleinerman from Michigan State University.
Because intense religious commitments can sometimes create so much violence, Hobbes sought peace by creating an essentially secular society. All dissenting opinions would be stamped out along with all religious liberty. Recognizing the dangerous totalitarianism and needless extremism inherent in Hobbes's argument, Locke proposed instead a society centered around religious liberty. Locke recognized that religious liberty and practice could be accepted so long as it did not challenge the essential sovereignty of the state. The current battles over religious liberty exemplified by the Supreme Court's recent decision in Masterpiece Cakeship v. Colorado Civil Rights Division recall this important divide between Hobbes and Locke. The question as to whether cake-decorators must do for gay weddings to which they fundamentally object revolves around the independence of religious liberty from state control. To achieve a peaceful equality, must we abolish all religious belief that does not subscribe to the state-sanctioned position on gay marriage? Or is there room for the religious liberty to dissent from the state so long as that dissent does not take the form of violence or fundamental violation of equality? At a fundamental level, ought we seek a balance between religious liberty and the state's definition of equality? Or, does the state's commitment to secularism demand the abolishment of any religious liberty that does subscribe to state-sponsored doctrines?