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There is a strange disconnect between the formal understanding of the separation of religion from government in the United States and the almost ubiquitous use of religious language in political discourse, not to mention the web of complicated religious motivations that sit on or just below the surface of policy debates. This paper presents an argument for the relevance of the principle of the "preferential option for the poor" from Catholic social thought in public reason and legal discourse in order to explore the possible advantages of making the veil between religion and the secular state more permeable. As a case study, it proposes dialogue between Catholicism and complementary secular thought, including standpoint theory, outsider methodology, and law and economics to explore possibilities for more effectively ensuring justice for the poor and marginalized.


An earlier version of this article was presented at Law, Culture and the Humanities at Georgetown Law Center in 2007.