One often hears the suggestion that people have a right to live according to their religious beliefs. (A current example - via B&W - is the Catholic Church's resentment at not being allowed to discriminate against gay adopters.) This puzzles me greatly, because the suggestion is so plainly ludicrous. Consider a religious fanatic whose beliefs prescribe doing harm and violence to others. No sane person would grant them the right to live according to their religious beliefs. There simply is no such right -- not when the beliefs in question are in conflict with the antecedent rights of others.
Now, liberals in the tradition of J.S. Mill might hold that people have the more general right to live however they like so long as no-one else is harmed (roughly speaking). That of course encompasses religious expression of the harmless variety. On this view, there is no special right to religious expression, as distinct from every other kind of expression. Just the same basic freedom for everyone, to live as they like (within reasonable limits), whether the basis for their choice is religious or not.
That sure sounds reasonable to me. But I might be missing something, so I'd like to hear from any supporters (a devil's advocate would do) of "special rights" for the religious. Room for such a view may open up once we retreat from pure liberalism, so that fewer activities are allowed to start with. My question is: are there any cases where a liberty should be granted only to the religious? For example, if an ancient religious ritual involves an illegal hallucinogen, should a special exemption be made for these practitioners alone?
Or you may think it's the 'ancient' rather than the 'religious' bit that matters here. Should there be "special rights" to ensure that old traditions can endure, when they would otherwise involve illegality?