Constitutionalism and Religion

Constitutionalism and Religion

Elgar Monographs in Constitutional and Administrative Law series

Francois Venter

This topical book examines how the goals of constitutionalism – good and fair government – are addressed at a time when the multi-religious composition of countries’ populations has never before been so pronounced.

Chapter 3: Constitutionalism

Francois Venter

Subjects: law - academic, constitutional and administrative law, law and society, legal philosophy


History has proven that lasting and sustainable societal, national and international peace is an unattainable ideal. The level of peace in the world is constantly fluctuating. The more consolidated a citizenry is, the more it will tend to feel threatened by the loss of its uniqueness by the commixture of other identities within its ranks or by threats of external domination. Globalization is diluting the uniqueness of the citizenries of most states, although there is hardly any contemporary instance of such dilution that has caused the former ‘national’ identity to be subsumed or replaced by cosmopolitanism. Constitutional and legal orders are strong indicators of the character of a citizenry, especially where democracy underpins the system. Due to the absorption by many societies of ‘other’ religious mentalities and structures, the legal orders of such societies are challenged to find ways to keep the religious peace by means of balanced justice. In most constitutional states it is no longer possible to allow the law to be guided, expressly or by implication, by some predominant religious stance. This has led to the increased popularity of the idea that secular neutrality provides a solution. It seems that, in the absence of credible alternatives, many are reconciled to state secularism. Such a ‘solution’, however, cannot but have the effect of disguising religious prejudice, a point to which we shall return below.

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