Introduction: Majorities, Minorities, and Religious Diversity
Majority rule is a value that is deeply embedded in American political culture. From the playground to Congress, when the need to make a choice arises and there are differences of opinion, Americans almost invariably resort to a vote. This is not just a casual practice. It represents a value that is profoundly ingrained in American political thought as the bedrock essence of democracy. But, where there are majorities there must also be minorities. The composition of most minorities tends to shift from situation to situation and from issue to issue. Also, in most cases, members of the minority have the option to decide to switch to the majority. Certain minorities, however, are more or less permanent. Either they are based on some immutable characteristic such as gender, or they are based on some deeply held belief or value that makes up a core aspect of a person’s identity such as religion. In such cases, switching to the majority is not an option or it is an option that carries a very heavy psychological and social cost.
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