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Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 32, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2012

Vic McCracken
Pages 133-149
DOI: 10.1353/sce.2012.0004

In Defense of Restraint
Democratic Respect, Public Justification, and Religious Conviction in Liberal Politics

WHAT DOES RESPECT REQUIRE OF RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED CITIZENS AS they support coercive public policies? In his recent work, Christopher Eberle argues against the doctrine of restraint, a norm that requires citizens to refrain from supporting laws for which public reasons are unavailable. Against Eberle, I defend the doctrine of restraint as a necessary corollary to liberal democratic respect. For this defense, I draw from one imaginary case, Robert Audi's example of "sacred dandelions" and laws banning lawn maintenance, and one real-world dispute, current debates about same-sex marriage policies. I argue that the doctrine of restraint when coupled with an inclusive definition of public reason better accords with our intuitive sense of what respect requires in both cases.