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Article

Sonia Sikka

There are many versions of liberalism, but it would be uncontroversial to say that they agree in placing a premium on individual liberty. As a political paradigm, liberalism is committed to protecting the freedom of persons to live and think as they choose without interference from the state, provided they do no harm to others. This fundamental commitment underlies the classical liberal arguments for religious liberty and toleration articulated by John Locke and J. S. Mill. It forms the basis for legal provisions guaranteeing freedom of religious belief, worship, and expression in liberal democratic nations, as well as the principle of non-establishment, which prohibits the state from favoring any religion or from favoring religion over nonbelief. The formulation of these two principles, religious freedom and nonestablishment, requires that the spheres of the secular and the sacred be distinguished in order to institute a particular relation between them. Questions have been raised about the validity and universality of this distinction, as well as its implications for the place of religion within political life. In contemporary political theory, the topic of public reason has been especially prominent, the point of contention being whether and how religious discourse may be allowed in political reasoning. Balancing religious freedom against other fundamental liberal rights poses another difficulty in cases where the beliefs and practices of religious individuals and communities come into conflict with general laws or compromise equality, another central liberal value. Sometimes social and political judgments about such cases seem to apply a double standard to the religious practices of certain minorities, moreover, and to reflect an element of cultural racism. This is arguably true of attitudes and decisions in Western countries regarding the hijab and other types of veils worn by Muslim women. Applying liberal principles for regulating religion in a fashion that is genuinely neutral and impartial remains a challenge. Indeed, some argue that there is no way of defining “religion” for the requisite purposes without privileging certain forms of it. If so, liberal efforts to protect religious freedom may end up enforcing varieties of religious establishment.

Article

Despite international guarantees to respect religious freedom, governments around the world often impose substantial restrictions on the abilities of some religious groups to openly practice their faith. These regulations on religious freedom are often justified to promote social stability. However, research has demonstrated a positive correlation between restrictions on religious freedom and religious violence. This violence is often thought to be a result of grievances arising from the denial of a religious group’s right to openly practice its faith. These grievances encourage violence by (a) encouraging a sense of common group identity, (b) encouraging feelings of hostility toward groups imposing those regulations, and (c) facilitating the mobilization of religious resources for political violence.

Article

In the previous centuries, religion had been losing its prominent role in society, but its relationship to the modern democratic state is still among the most fundamental questions of political philosophy. Secularism is commonly described with label of “the separation of Church and state,” but the idea of the state disconnectedness from religion is a much more complex a phenomenon than this term suggests. A secular state must “manage” the relationship between religion and state institutions in a way that makes religion both subject to specific disabilities and singling out for special treatment. Modern secularism has several different faces: Political secularism, economic secularism, educational secularism, ethical secularism, scientific secularism, and religious criticism are all different modes of secularism. Political secularism is the key mode among these, because it is a precondition of the pursuit of the other modes. Political secularism has three essential elements: politics, religion, and their separation. Consequently, different conceptions of secularism will provide different and rival versions of the core concept, political secularism, depending on how they define politics, religion, and separation. Secularism can refer to different levels of the state: to its ends (a theocracy is the exact opposite of a secular state in this regard); its institutions (the connectedness/disconnectedness of the state’s institutions with that of the Church); its laws/public policies (the state’s regulation of religion and religious activities); its source of legitimacy (what is the final source of the legitimacy of the state); the justification of its public policies/laws (what justification is given to state laws/public policies); the level of power and jurisdiction (whether the state is the only sovereign on its territory or sovereignty is shared with the Church); and its symbolic dimension (whether the state symbolically supports any religious groups). The function of political secularism is to prevent at least four different kinds of problems: It must protect the religious freedom of believers on its territory, and religion must be protected from politics, but the state must be also protected from religion. In addition, there is a possible problem on the symbolic level, with the state’s official endorsement of religion. Political secularism must also satisfy important normative principles. The most important of these are freedom of conscience and the principle of state neutrality. To satisfy these principles/normative requirements, the secular state must manage religion in a way that it keeps a principled distance on the aforementioned levels, but it must also protect and accommodate religion so it does not suffer unfair disadvantages. The upshot is that a secular state will be incompatible with either full religious establishment and the radical separation of Church and state—regimes that satisfy political secularism will take place somewhere between these two poles.

Article

Ewa A. Golebiowska and Silviya Gancheva

It is a truism to say that most Poles are Catholic. Yet, there is also a large number of other churches and religious organizations that are currently registered with the Polish state, although they are very small in the number of adherents they boast. In comparison with other churches and religious organizations, the Catholic Church is a uniquely important social and political actor today and has played an important role in Poland’s over millennium-long history. A brief review of the history of the Catholic Church in Polish society and politics helps illustrate how the Catholic Church has come to play the role it plays in present-day Poland. At present, its relationship to the Polish state is formally outlined in the Constitution, several statutes concerning religion, the country’s criminal code, and an international agreement with the Vatican known as the concordat. Three issues—religious education in public schools, the relationship between the Church and state finances, and the Church’s openness to new religious movements—illustrate how the Catholic Church and state in Poland interact in practice. More informally, religious expression in the country’s public square provides further insight into the relationship between church and state in Poland.

Article

The Christian Right continues to oppose lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, but the nature of this opposition has evolved over time—often in conjunction with changes in public opinion. From the formation of groups such as the Moral Majority and Concerned Women in America in the late 1970s through the late 2010s, Christian Right groups and LGBT rights groups have frequently responded to each other’s arguments, strategies, and tactics. The Christian Right of the 1980s used anti-gay themes and rhetoric to raise money and to motivate its members, but it was not effective in reaching individuals outside of its relatively narrow membership base. In the 1990s and 2000s, a number of more sophisticated Christian Right groups were active at the national level, and a number of state and local-level organizations formed to address LGBT issues specifically. Focus on the Family, for example, took a national approach. Its radio programs reached millions of listeners and its mailing list consisted of 2.5 million names. Focus on the Family’s efforts were aimed at converting sexual minorities and attacking both the “radical homosexual agenda” and the gay rights groups that promoted it. At the same time, Family Research Council (FRC) worked with state affiliates to distribute materials across the country. As public opinion shifted in support of same-sex marriage (SSM), and after the Supreme Court overturned state bans on SSM in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, the movement then worked to pass “religious freedom” laws. These laws would allow conservative Christians to refuse to provide services for SSMs, and in many cases allow far broader forms of discrimination. Although the Christian Right was successful in the realm of electoral politics (e.g., the Christian Coalition once claimed to control 35 state Republican Party committees), it has not been able to stop growing public acceptance of LGBT rights.

Article

This essay explores the well-known tension between the commitment to a state religion and expressions of tolerance for other religions. The background question concerns the consequences of state religion, the more suspect of the two commitments, at least with respect to intergroup relations. A useful conception of state religion is as a central part of an identity regime, which can take several forms in national constitutions. It seems likely that state religion—and other exclusive elements of identity regimes—threaten the national attachment of ethnic minorities in ways that unwind many of the benefits of tolerance provisions. A simple typology helps to understand the variation in these provisions across jurisdictions and over time, and original historical cross-national data on national constitutions describes this variation in some detail. The evidence suggests that the world’s constitutions are moving in strikingly divergent directions with respect to their provisions on religion.

Article

Opposition to same-sex marriage in the United States is frequently based on the religious belief that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman. With most of the attention focused on wedding vendors, the clash between religious liberty and marriage equality has largely manifested itself in efforts by business owners, such as photographers, florists, caterers, and bakers, to deny their services to same-sex couples celebrating their marriages. Citing state antidiscrimination laws, the couples demand the owners treat them as they do their other customers. Owners of public accommodations (privately owned business open to the public) who object to facilitating the weddings of same-sex couples do so typically by asserting their personal religious beliefs as defenses when charged with violating such laws; they argue that they would view their participation (albeit indirect) in wedding ceremonies as endorsing same-sex marriage. As the lawsuits against them began to proliferate, the business owners asked the courts to shield them from liability for violating the laws prohibiting discrimination because of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. They cited their First Amendment right to the free exercise of their religion and their right not to be compelled to speak, that is, to express a positive message about same-sex marriage. With conflicts between same-sex couples and owners of business establishments arising in a number of states, the focus of the nation’s attention was on a New Mexico photographer, a Washington State florist, and a Colorado baker, each of whom sought an exemption from their state’s antidiscrimination law to enable them to exercise their religious tenets against marriage equality. In these cases, the state human rights commissions and the state appellate courts ruled that the antidiscrimination laws outweighed the rights of the business owners to exercise their religious beliefs against marriage equality by refusing to play a role, no matter how limited, in a same-sex marriage ceremony. In June 2018, in Masterpiece Cakeshop, LTD. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state’s antidiscrimination law that guaranteed equal treatment for same-sex couples in places of public accommodations but reversed the Commission’s ruling against the Colorado baker. In a narrow decision, the Court held that the Commission infringed on the baker’s First Amendment right to free exercise by uttering comments that, in the Court’s view, demonstrated hostility to his sincerely held religious beliefs. The ruling affirmed that society has a strong interest in protecting gay men and lesbians from harm as they engage in the marketplace as well as in respecting sincerely held religious beliefs.

Article

Barbara A. McGraw and James T. Richardson

Although the United States Constitution presumably was designed to avoid “regulation” of religion, there is an interplay between religious individuals and private organizations, on the one hand, and the state, on the other hand, which has a regulatory effect on religion in some areas of public life. The First Amendment’s “Religious Clauses” prohibit an establishment of religion and preserve the right to free exercise of religion. An important area of contention and development in legislation and Supreme Court jurisprudence involves free exercise accommodations or exemptions to laws and rules that generally apply to everyone. These are particularly at issue in the workplace, in correctional institutions, and in the military. The latter two give rise to establishment issues, which have been resolved in favor of free exercise, as government support of religion has been held to be necessary to preserve the free exercise rights of inmates and service personnel. The enactment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) have led to a much greater deference to religious rights, resulting in accommodations that would not have been required under preexisting legislation and judicial interpretation. Another such area involves religious organizations themselves, in particular issues regarding tax-exempt status, land use, and faith-based initiatives. A provision in the tax code known as the Johnson Amendment, which restrains religious (and other tax-exempt organizations) from certain political activities, has been challenged recently as a limitation on free speech, however without success so far. Issues involving local government limitations on religious organizations’ land use through zoning restrictions are now being addressed more favorably for religious organizations through the land-use provisions of RLUIPA, although not without controversy. Faith-based initiatives have promoted religious organizations, or faith-based organizations (FBOs), as important government partners, which are eligible to receive public funds for the delivery of social services. Since the late 20th century, there has been a gradual, but significant shift toward greater respect for individuals’ and groups’ religious rights, especially reflected in recent legislation and Supreme Court decisions. Such trends suggest that, although religion has come into conflict with legal-policy developments in other areas, such as those involving gay marriage and contraception coverage, the right to practice one’s religion and participate in public endeavors alongside nonreligious individuals and groups, is likely to continue to expand for the foreseeable future.

Article

Nathan C. Walker

A society’s political and legal treatment of religion is a distinct indicator of the health of a democracy. Consequently, high levels of political and legal contempt for religion in the United States can be an indicator that partners in American democracy may be going through a divorce. By drawing upon studies that measure voter attitudes and behaviors, as well as research that tracks the levels of social hostilities and violence toward religion, students of democracy see into two of society’s most revealing mirrors: political rhetoric and the nation’s laws. These reflections can unveil powerful questions about the true character of a nation: will democracy rule from a place of contempt for the religious other, or from a state of passive political tolerance, or from a constitutional commitment to actively protect the rights of those with whom we disagree? Theories of political tolerance and psychological studies of contempt prove helpful in examining contemporary levels of religious animosity in politics and law. The Religious Contempt Scale, as introduced in this essay, gauges a society’s willingness to tolerate the religious other. When special attention is given to the frequency and degrees of severity of expressions of contempt, it becomes clear that contempt has political utility: to motivate the intolerant to gain access to power and, in turn, to motivate those who are intolerant of intolerance to remove them.

Article

Conservative Christianity’s alignment with the Republican Party at the end of the 20th century is one of the most consequential political developments, both for American religion and American party politics. In the proceeding four decades, what has been the nature of this relationship? The inclusion-moderation thesis suggests that once religious movements are integrated into political parties, their interests are often co-opted by broader party interests and their positions moderate. For the Christian right in the U.S. there is mixed evidence for the inclusion-moderation process. Considering all the evidence, the most apt description is that conservative Christianity has transformed the Republican Party, and the Republican Party has transformed conservative Christianity. With its inclusion in the Republican Party, the Christian right has moderated on some aspects. The movement has become more professional, more attuned to the more widely accepted, secular styles of democratic politics, and more engaged in the broader goals and positions of the party. Conservative Christianity has also failed to fully achieve some of its most important goals and has lost some of its distinctiveness. In these ways, the party has changed the Christian right. At the same time, the Christian right has altered Republican politics. National candidates have changed their positions on important social issues, including abortion, gay rights, and religious freedom. The party’s platforms and judicially strategies have been strongly affected by movement’s interests, and conservative Christian activists have come to be central to the Republican Party. It’s stability and strength within the party have given the movement power. In these areas, the Christian right has evangelized the Republican Party rather than moderated. A fair assessment is that for the Christian right there has been partial but quite incomplete adherence to the inclusion-moderation process.

Article

The prominence of religious groups, religious motifs, and religious and theological claims in the anti-trafficking movement is useful for exploring how social movements are shaped by religious actors and claims and, in turn, use religion in the process of creating social change. The anti-trafficking movement can be situated in relation to three key previous social movements: the 18th–19th-century abolition movement that sought to abolish chattel slavery, the 19th–20th-century anti-white slavery campaigns of the social purity movement that sought to eliminate prostitution, and the late 20th-century movement that sought to address Christian persecution through promoting religious freedom. By highlighting the way that the anti-trafficking movement draws on and extends the moral claim-making of each of these social movements, these earlier movements are revealed as shaping the social movement ecology out of which the contemporary anti-trafficking movement emerges and in which it functions. Further, exploring the movement to end human trafficking in relation to these social movements suggests at least three significant ways religion matters in social movements: as a source of moral legitimacy, as a source of moral clarity, and as a cultural resource. As a source of moral authority, religion provides a source of grounding that lends credibility to movements’ moral claims by situating them in something larger than immediate interests and experiences. As a source of moral clarity, religion is a source of the moral values that animates social movements and sustains them through challenges. As a cultural resource, religious sensibilities influence how social movements perceive issues and formulate responses to them.