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October 21, 2008


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"... the signal I would receive from this practice is that the members of the community where it occurs, in all aspects including religion, are preferred within their community, just as they should be, given local democracy."

I think McAdams errs by presupposing a "moment" at which the terms of the equality are decreed among his community members and from which they would not thereafter diverge. Each believer in McAdamsville continues indefinitely to hold to the same tenets in the same intensive pattern, relative to his or her own past patterns of belief and relative to those of the other members of the community.

Of course no such community exists, but that is not the basis of my objection.

Part of the principle of equality is that readings of a society's realization of it should be taken from time to time and the results compared. This is because change is fundamental.

Social status is unavoidable, but it is not fixed. Infants, children, adults and the aged persons (ahem!) experience their social status differently, notwithstanding that they may be members of the same social class or religious community. But we account them all as at least potentially "equal" for some purposes, especially those involving the assignment of ultimate values.

McAdams has gotten himself hoist on an inadequate idea of equality. He may think that "liberty" is better associated with dynamism and change. But I urge that equality has to have a dynamic aspect as well. Fortunately, it does, which is why I think Nussbaum's identification of it as intrinsic to the Establishment Clause is profound and fruitful.

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