Edited by Peter Cumper and Tom Lewis
Should judges be allowed to wear a headscarf in the courtroom? Are face-covering veils to be banned from the streets? Should state officials be excused from performing same-sex marriages because of their Christian convictions? Can a municipal organisation turn away a Muslim applicant because he refuses to shake hands with colleagues or clients of the opposite sex? Should the government take action to stop an orthodox Christian party from excluding women from standing for election on religious grounds? These are just a small selection of issues involving religious values and practices that have given rise to extensive public debates in the Netherlands, where religion and the accommodation of religious practices are highly contested. In this chapter we will explore the current state of affairs concerning this subject. We will start by briefly explaining the constitutional position of religion and religious freedom (section 2) and the way in which the relationship between church and state has developed over the centuries (section 3). To fully understand the current debates it is necessary to be aware of the peculiar way in which, historically, the Dutch have dealt with tensions stemming from religious pluralism.
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