Generally I think our United States Supreme Court is overly concerned with laws establishing religion and too little concerned with laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion. A study of the history of the establishment clause demonstrates the Supreme Court has basically turned the establishment clause on it’s head. (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/03pdf/02-1624.pdf see Scalia’s concurring opinion) But that is another discussion. For now, I don’t want to get involved with how the amendment is interpreted but rather the more basic question of when certain distinctions may be warranted.
If we consider discrimination against race, gender or disability we can see that it is irrational because, it is wrong to blame someone for something they didn’t choose. Moreover, the mere fact of a difference in race gender or disability does not seem to effect whether someone will act morally – however we want to define morality.
But what about religion? It seems that it is both chosen and it does, at least potentially, effect how people will act. This difference is indicated by the different cultures that develop based on different religious beliefs. Is cultural discrimination a bad thing? I would agree that someone would have to be narrow minded to not like anything about a culture – even Nazi or Soviet culture – but on the whole it would seem ok if your dislikes of a culture outweigh what you do like about it.
While it might be nice if there were clear lines to draw about religious beliefs and how they should be treated by the state and individuals, it seems reality is a bit more complicated. I will probably post more on this in the future but for right now the question remains whether religious discrimination should be treated differently then, say, race, gender or disability discrimination.