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 8: The demands of constitutionalism regarding religion

Francois Venter

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


As can be seen from the previous chapters, the ‘secular’ reaction is widely considered to be an appropriate response to the difficulties facing the state, religious communities and individuals, caused by the growing religious pluralism of the citizens and denizens of many countries around the globe. Pamela Slotte for example identifies ‘the principle of secularism’ as a duty of states, groups and individuals in European human rights law. Jeroen Temperman presents an argued apologia for ‘religiously neutral governance’. He casts the secular ‘solution’ in the form of everyone's right that the state should be prohibited by law (constitutional and international) from discriminating directly or indirectly on grounds of religion or belief. However, Temperman's impressive comparative study of the manner in which states across the globe deal in theory and practice with religion and related matters shows how deeply intermingled law and religion are and the extent to which historical and contemporary predilections will have to be overcome if religious neutrality is to be achieved in governance. In fact, religious neutrality appears to be beyond the reach of humanity, and where it is propounded it does not produce the desired results. Nevertheless Temperman concludes: [I]f we do allow a role for religion to be played within the political discourse we must make sure that constitutional safeguards are in place to prevent human rights abuses.

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