The National Science Foundation awarded a grant of $324,228 to University of Nebraska–Lincoln for the project "Religious Exemption Laws and Minority Rights" under the direction of Kelsy Burke, assistant professor of sociology and women's and gender studies (pictured above, right), and Emily Kazyak, associate professor of sociology and women's and gender studies (pictured above, left).
Public debates over the civil rights of minorities have raised questions about whether individuals may be exempt from adhering to nondiscrimination laws due to their religious beliefs. The issue of whether individuals may be exempt from adhering to nondiscrimination laws due to religious beliefs is complex, involving legal institutions and individual beliefs.
This project analyzes legal data and in-depth interviews to understand cultural interpretations at the institutional and individual level. The researchers will study the laws related to religious exemption and Americans' reactions to religious exemption laws related to minority rights and ask:
- How and when do state and case laws related to religious exemption implicate minorities?
- How do individuals evaluate religious exemption claims as they relate to minorities?
- To what extent does the language of state and case laws overlap or diverge with individual interpretations?
The researchers will:
- create and analyze an original database of U.S. court cases and state laws related to religious exemption over a 21-year period
- conduct and analyze in-depth interviews with 180 participants in four U.S. cities
- compare legal initiatives with interview data
- advance scientific understanding about the relationship between public opinion and state and federal laws
- generate empirical knowledge that can inform legislation and policies related to minority rights and religious exemption, contributing to the health and well-being of individuals and U.S. democracy
- inform the literature in cultural sociology, the sociology of religion and the sociology of law
Their previous article on the topic, "Logics of Freedom: Debating Religious Freedom Laws and Gay and Lesbian Rights," was one of the top 25 most downloaded articles published by the American Sociological Association.