Suppose we are considering whether it is okay for the government, in pursuit of legitimate public aims, to require one to bake a cake for a gay wedding when this goes against one’s religious convictions. If a pretty strong version of religious tolerance is true, then the answer is no. And the same circumstance affects the shape of good reasoning toward the relevant conclusion in the following way: reasons like ‘this guy would be forced to act against his religious convictions if this proposal were implemented’ and ‘this guy has a religious conviction according to which it is a sin to be involved, in any way, in any marriage that is not between a man and a woman’ are to be given controlling weight, decisively weighing against the conclusion that it is okay for the government to thus coerce. (This would be a fact about good reasoning, which we might well do privately, not a fact about how we should treat each other in deliberating together about what to do collectively.)
However the work of Estlund’s “acceptability requirements” seems to be something more like this: in considering whether the government can coerce its citizens in such circumstances, we have to give controlling weight to such reasons as ‘that marriage between people of the same sex is wrong’ — even though such propositions are false! And, similarly, due to folks having this sort of religious conviction, some true (and presumably objectively relevant and weighty) reasons in favor of the government coercion are not allowed to be used in political reasoning on the topic (e.g., ‘that refusal to provide such services on the basis of sexual preference is wrong’ and ‘that prohibiting such wrongs potentially is part of or promotes an important common good’ might get ruled out). This is what “acceptability requirements” are supposed to do — and what political liberalism, as a theory that would plumb the depths of what political justification is and does, at least on Estlund’s telling.
But this seems crazy. Even if we think, as I think we should, of the work of “acceptability requirements” in terms of circumstances of religious conviction changing some (rather obvious) facts about good reasoning about government coercion (as against what they would be if the principle of liberal tolerance were false) rather than in terms of “acceptability requirements” that somehow rule out some perfectly good reasons and rule in some pretty bad ones – I don’t see how we get the relevant normative result here regarding appropriate reasons and reasoning toward conclusions about government coercion (from the idea that X having religious conviction P rules out the permissibility of the government coercing X into acting against P). But, as is rather usual, I have a strong result here and I’m worried that I’m missing something.