I was reading Why does religion get a special treatment in anti-discrimination laws?. Perhaps religion has a definitive clause somewhere in federal law, no doubt, and indeed religions are prevented from "overruling" each other in these so-called "free countries", but suppose there is a dispute between any two or more religions that begins to break out, perhaps even into incivility and even to the point of civil war between religions for matters other than political advantage (like the war of 1812 vs. the Catholic crusades against invading Mohammedans or taking back the Holy City).

My question is, apart from simply responding with military action when necessary, if there is law against discrimination of religion, and the above case were to happen in either Canada or the USA, or even both for that matter, how would the two governments deal with such a situation?

War is only an extreme example of what can come about from differing religious motives, but what about simply breaking the law by the discrimination of one religious group against another in civil matters?

The problem I see is that no one is allowed to discriminate religions, yet religions are at perpetual enmity with each other. How does the government reconcile irreconcilable conflicts like religious disputes in their own country? Would people committing acts of violence (or otherwise breaking the law) in the name of religion simply be tried for other crimes against the state to bypass their own anti-discrimination laws, effectively persecuting religions anyway, or would it be seen as mere civil disruption and hence considered persecuting individuals of the religion, rather than the religion itself?

(Note: any prohibitory law that might usually prevent someone from causing incivility or violence is not going to stop a religious group if they believe they are doing something for the good of their religion; I am looking for answers that specifically address potentially fanatical groups intent on breaking the law to achieve a religious resolution.)

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    Welcome on Politcs.SE ! Do you have any reference for this strong statement: religions are at perpetual war with eachother ?
    – Evargalo
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 13:42
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    @Evargalo one can easily reason it, and no, I am not going to be politically correct. Each religion believes differently and each religion is either in truth or in error. Since each religion is fundamentally different, if all the truths or errors of a religion are based on a single foundation, and all religions have differing foundations, then they will therefore always be at war with each other, whether or not there is any actual bloodshed.
    – AMDG
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 13:48
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    'How does the government reconcile irreconcilable..' - sounds quite paradoxical to me... Also as the answer by @DavidRice insinuates, why do you think that crimes would be committed by religions and not individuals?
    – Communisty
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:02
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    @AMDG : but with this very large definition of war, why would the government actually worry or do anything about it ? Arguments (even heated) and beliefs (even diverse) are welcome, aren't they ?
    – Evargalo
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:09
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    @AMDG : once again: why should the governement worry or do anything about such "dispute" ?
    – Evargalo
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:19

4 Answers 4


Laws against discrimination don't prevent law enforcement from enforcing secular laws. If someone is breaking laws (like, for example, killing people of other religions) then they're still subject to the repercussions even if their motives are religious.

  • Yes, but what about non-violent discrimination. For example, I am Catholic. I have a business, and I am well-grounded in my beliefs; I want to [discriminate] against other religions and ideologies in a way that is effective that says, "We do not support that." The same to be said of aberrant groups who, according to the Church, are ipso facto excommunicated and, if a single person or two, then executed for the good of society, but since we are talking groups, then they are to be shunned, and we are not the government, so capital punishment is not our place.
    – AMDG
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:17
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    @AMDG : if you are a business-owner and discirminating against other people, you are breaking the law whatever your motives are (religious or not). At least it is so in Europe, even though there was recently a puzzling ruling in the US : theguardian.com/law/2018/jun/04/…
    – Evargalo
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:23
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    @Evargalo, the baker's case was probably most puzzling because it wasn't saying much at all about the constitution or laws... "The decision focused narrowly on the handling of Phillips’ case, however, leaving open the question of whether anti-discrimination laws should supersede religious beliefs in future cases." Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:26
  • @Evargalo there's loopholes everywhere. Shouldn't be hard to find one. How would I discriminate? I would not deny the necessities of life, but everything not necessary for life can be bought elsewhere. Everyone needs food and water, and a means to live. What you don't need is decoration or any creature pursuant of your own interests and preferences.
    – AMDG
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:26
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    @AMDG what does necessity vs. non-necessity have to do with the law? If you're a business, you serve the public and you're not allowed to discriminate based on your customers' religions. It doesn't matter whether you sell pacemakers or party hats.
    – David Rice
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 20:19

One important thing to note is the ahistorical premise of this question.

In large part, religious disputes are NOT about religion per se - they are historically most often about disputes between two governments, who use religion as either a casus belli, and/or a motivation to their followers.

This can be traced in almost every single "religious" conflict. The most famous one (30 Year War) was all about power aspirations of various European nobility and governments - its impetus was a dynastic dispute, not doctrinal differences. Crusades were more about plunder and chivalry (as in military prowess, using the term in proper historical context) achievements than religion (thus, anti-Byzantine attacks) - both at the level of governments and individual knights. The only war I can think of that was literally mostly about religion was Mexica empire's conquests, which were driven by the need for more captives to be sacrificed.

As such, secular states like US and Canada are less likely to see such a dispute in the first place, because there are no political/government leaders fighting a war for dominance/power/land/resources in the first place, religion or not.

  • I would have to partially disagree here. While it is true that certain people or groups have used religion as a means to attain their own goal, I am specifically looking for an answer based on religious disputes based on... religious disputes, not personal motives. The objective actions that take place in such a conflict like a crusade such as "plunder and chivalry" are apart from the actual intent or subjective cause of a crusade.
    – AMDG
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:59
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    @AMDG - could you please provide an example of a historical purely religious dispute you would consider to be a model for this? Again, where religion was a true actual cause.
    – user4012
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 15:03
  • "The Crusades were a series of religious wars between Christians and Muslims started primarily to secure control of holy sites considered sacred by both groups. In all, eight major Crusade expeditions occurred between 1096 and 1291. The bloody, violent and often ruthless conflicts propelled the status of European Christians, making them major players in the fight for land in the Middle East." source
    – AMDG
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 15:05
  • @AMDG - note the "Control" part. It wasn't about religion, at the core, no matter what the Papal excuses were.
    – user4012
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 15:26
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    @AMDG "The Crusades" is a cop-out answer for anything having to do with religion. The differences between the First Crusade and the Eighth are so vast, it's a wonder anybody thinks that they are related at all.
    – Michael W.
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 16:54

Preventing violence between religious groups is usually one of the main reasons anti-discrimination laws exist in the first place. When someone commits a violent crime against people of a different religious groups and the motive is clearly a religious conflict, then this would be a prime example for the kind of hate crime the US justice system has particularly hard provisions against.

When one is indicted of a violent crime, then "My faith requires me to murder all heretics and infidels" is usually not a good defense in a court of law, unless they are going for an insanity defense.


Religion has a definitive clause somewhere in federal law.

For the US, a person's rights regarding religion are not enshrined in law but in the Constitution. This is a very important distinction.

Laws are made by Congress (either state or federal), executed by the President (or governor), and any disputes are handled in the courts. Laws may be changed by the majority or Congress and the President may execute laws or not execute laws within the scope of his or her authority. On the other hand, a constitutional right may not be encroached by Congress, the President, or a court.

If a person (or employer, shopkeeper, public official, etc.) does something illegal and claims that he or she must not pay a fine / go to jail / etc. because of his or her religion, then courts must weigh this claim very heavily. They have not always honored such claims, but they do take the claimant's side often enough for people to believe that the personal right to practice any religion may very well be a valid defense.

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    This is not quite correct. The constitution does not prevent a private employer from refusing to hire, for example, Methodists. That prohibition exists in civil rights laws. Only when the employer claims that hiring Methodists is contrary to the employer's own religious beliefs does the first amendment come into play.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 18:07

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