The War Within Religion: Towards a More Nuanced Resolution of Religion–Equality Conflicts

Netta Barak-Corren*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, and many parts of Europe, conflicts between religious liberty and gender equality (including LGBTQ equality) are understood and analyzed as “culture wars.” This view has shaped the sociolegal understanding of the conflict—how the legal community makes sense of cases and interprets their social significance—and has narrowed the perceived scope of legal solutions to religion–equality conflicts to zero-sum, either–or decisions: either a carte blanche for religious objectors or a strict and universal enforcement of anti-discrimination law. Drawing on qualitative (N=41) and experimental (N=559) evidence from the United States and Israel and on cases from a range of countries and contexts, this Article makes two arguments: First, the understanding of religion–equality conflicts shall not be complete unless we recognize that they occur both between and within cultures. The two wars are connected in a feedback loop, as the struggle within religion influences what conflicts are waged at the culture war and what conflicts are resolved internally. Second, the war within religion has normative implications: in this struggle, religious communities form intermediate solutions to regulate—and mitigate—religion–equality conflicts. These policies can help expand the nuance and scope of legal solutions to the conflict. Showing how, this Article makes a timely intervention in a legal debate that struggles with setting clear rules and seeks to find more nuanced resolutions for the conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-852
Number of pages64
JournalAmerican Journal of Comparative Law
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) [2024]. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society of Comparative Law. All rights reserved.


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