Institution Granting Degree
University of Virginia
Mielaender, Gilbert, Public policy, Religion
The purpose of this dissertation is to examine and evaluate the position of Gilbert Meilaender on the appropriateness of appealing to religious reasons as support for one's position on issues of public policy. The dissertation establishes that, while Meilaender often discusses public policy issues directly or indirectly from a distinctively Christian perspective, he argues that such discussions are unavoidable, appropriate and consistent with toleration for other views in a pluralistic democracy. While this may create a certain amount of tension within pluralistic democracy, it poses no serious threat to social stability and can be both civically virtuous and respectful of other views.
The dissertation first surveys the ongoing debate on the place of religious reasons in supporting or opposing public policies, delineating three basic positions on the question and exploring the views of representatives of each position. It then moves to an analysis of Meilaender's conception of Christian ethics which informs his position on the question of religion and public policy. Two salient themes emerge in this analysis: tension and limits. These two themes play an important role in the third part of the dissertation which explicates Meilaender's specific position on the place of religious reasons in supporting or opposing public policies. Meilaender's position is further illuminated through considering some of his publications and his work with government-sponsored bioethics commissions. The last part of the dissertation evaluates Meilaender's position by placing him in conversation with others from a variety of perspectives on this question and closes with some final comments on Meilaender's view. I conclude that his position is both consistent with his conception of Christian ethics and that it is respectful and tolerant of the views of others.