This article distinguishes three different conceptions of the relationship between religion and the public sphere. The reconciliation of these different aspects of freedom of religion can be seen to give rise to considerable difficulties in practice, and the legal and political systems of several Western European countries are struggling to cope. Four recurring issues that arise in this context are identified and considered: what is a ‘religion’ and what are ‘religious’ beliefs and practices for the purposes of the protection of ‘freedom of religion’, together with the closely related issue of who decides these questions; what justification there is for a provision guaranteeing freedom of religion at all; which manifestations of religious association are so unacceptable as to take the association outside the protection of freedom of religion altogether; and what weight should be given to freedom of religion when this freedom stands opposed to other values. It is argued that the scope and meaning of human rights in this context is anything but settled and that this gives an opportunity to those who support a role for religion in public life to intervene.
"Religion, Human Rights, Equality and the Public Sphere"
Areas of Interest
Ecclesiastical Law Journal