The Significance of Communal Religious Freedom for Liberal Democracy

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  • Title: The Significance of Communal Religious Freedom for Liberal Democracy
  • Author(s): Hans-Martien ten Napel
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Religion in Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society
  • Keywords: Religious Freedom, Liberal Democracy, Separation of Powers, Democratic Ethos
  • Volume: 8
  • Issue: 3
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2154-8633 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2154-8641 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2154-8633/CGP/v08i03/25-33
  • Citation: ten Napel, Hans-Martien. 2018. "The Significance of Communal Religious Freedom for Liberal Democracy." The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society 8 (3): 25-33. doi:10.18848/2154-8633/CGP/v08i03/25-33.
  • Extent: 9 pages

Abstract

Leading US scholar of constitutional interpretation Michael Paulsen has developed an interesting theory of religious freedom called “The Priority of God.” Paulsen distinguishes, first of all, a liberal conception of religious freedom, according to which it is widely assumed that religious truth exists in a society and the state is tolerant towards various faiths and other traditions. The US, however, has developed in the direction of a modern conception of religious freedom, which no longer recognises religious truth although the state remains tolerant. Moreover, still according to Paulsen, several European countries have adopted a postmodern conception of religious freedom. This conception does not only no longer recognise religious truth, but also implies a considerably less tolerant state, as secularism becomes the established “religion.” This view paradoxically resembles the preliberal stance of religious intolerance out of the conviction that religious truth exists. In response to such developments, the current article makes a case for the classical liberal position with respect to religious freedom. A liberal religious freedom conception forms the best guarantee that societal institutions will be able to fulfil their constitutional functions of a check on the government and as “seedbeds of virtue.”