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National Secular Society Podcast


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Personal)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/05/08


f you haven’t had the time and would have an interest in some of the great audio content produced by the secular communities around the world, and if your time has opened more with the coronavirus, then you may want to check out some of the great content produced by the National Secular Society or the NSS.

They have released a podcast with conversations with leading secular personalities around the world including, recently, in Episode 25, Andrew L. Seidel from the Freedom From Religion Foundation who is a U.S. constitutional and civil rights lawyer.

Alastair Lichten and Andrew talk about some of the important issues of the day for the separation of church and state. One of these is the idea of religious exceptionalism and the warped idea of religious liberty in a society in which it, like others, remains embroiled in a fight against a pandemic. How does a concept of religious exceptionalism and religious liberty fit into this picture?

When a religious permits exceptions for itself, then, in a manner of (faux) rights speaking, then it provides for itself the exception to the rules for everyone else based on the fact fo it being a God-given right to enter a place of worship or to pray in public spaces, etc., while in a pandemic, when the most prudent actions have been recommended by medical (scientific) authorities, including lockdown, physical distancing, and wearing of masks, etc.

With one case being the lack of access to places of worship of holy days, these restrictions apply to all. Some religious institutions, leaders, and individuals propose to be exceptions to the rules for everyone else. This may be mild privileges for oneself in the past. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, it is that and more because it puts others’ lives at risk.

Humanism teaches social responsibility and personal responsibility. So if an individual wants to harm themselves, then we can socially work to prevent this; while, at the same time, if the individual blatantly forgoes those health recommendations and demands on the part of the health authorities for the health of everyone else, then this individual becomes a health threat to themselves and others based on a psychological state of denial of the facts before them. That’s only one case.

Seidel and Lichten unpack some of these thornier issues of individuals preaching religion as a means by which to acquire unusual and exceptional privileges apart from others, including other religions and those without religion. Thus, the term “religious exceptionalism” may, in fact, best be stated as “particular religious exceptionalism” as, typically, one religion gets the benefit over other religions and over no religion.

Their episodes are available on our website, with videos on YouTube and post-session transcripts available.

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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