Religions Exemptions as a Mechanism for Political Stability

Academic Workshop with Kinder Postdoc David Golemboski

An annual tradition for our outgoing Postdocs, the Kinder Institute will host a February 2 discussion of Kinder Postdoctoral Fellow in American Political Thought and Constitutionalism David Golemboski’s recent work on “Religious Exemptions as a Mechanism for Political Stability” (see below for an abstract of the paper to be discussed). The workshop will take place at 9am in the Kinder Institute’s seminar room in Jesse Hall. Anyone interested in participating should contact Thomas Kane,, for a copy of Prof. Golemboski’s paper.


Recent years have seen much political and academic debate over the legitimacy of religious exemptions from generally-applicable laws. Most of this debate has taken place on moral or rights-based terms. In this paper, I advance a different kind of defense of exemptions, arguing that they can serve as mechanisms to enhance political stability. My central thesis is that exemptions can ameliorate conflicts between citizens’ religious and legal obligations, which have the potential to undermine citizens’ endorsement of and support for their political system. I also elaborate parameters for identifying those exemptions most likely to have a net-positive effect on political stability, and apply that framework to the 2014 case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores.