Research Handbook on Law and Religion
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Research Handbook on Law and Religion

Edited by Rex Ahdar

Offering an interdisciplinary, international and philosophical perspective, this comprehensive Research Handbook explores both perennial and recent legal issues that concern the modern state and its interaction with religious communities and individuals.
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Chapter 7: Establishment and encounter

Perry Dane


One important puzzle in the law of religion and law is the dramatic diversity, even among Western nations, of the basic norms governing the institutional and expressive relationships between religion and state. One challenge is to articulate a normative minimum which respects that diversity but also provides a language by which to assess specific religion-state dispensations. The principles of liberal democracy are one pillar of that normative structure. But this chapater argues that we also need to look to a different, older and broader perspective: religion and state are distinct sovereign realms engaged in an existential encounter. The encounter can take various forms. Nevertheless, church and state must respect each other’s essential dignity. The church should not subsume the state; the state should not subsume the church. The essay canvasses various religion-state dispensations in the light of this basic idea, focusing on the spatial metaphors that often animate those dispensations.

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