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 8: Religion, secularism and limitations on constitutional amendment

Richard Albert and Yaniv Roznai

Abstract

Constitutional designers often entrench religion and secularism against amendment. We explore the unamendability of religion and secularism in constitutions around the world. We begin, in section 1, with an overview of the formal unamendability of religion and secularism in codified constitutions. In section 2, we analyse how religion and secularism in their unamendable forms have been interpreted; here we distinguish between formal unamendability entrenched in a codified constitution and informal unamendability that arises from judicial interpretation or political practice. We focus on the Constitutions of Canada, India, Iran and Turkey. Section 3 moves from the descriptive to the normative: we state the democratic objection to, as well as the democratic defence of, unamendability. We conclude with thoughts on the uses and misuses of unamendability, and its effectiveness in constraining political actors from exercising or refraining from exercising their delegated powers.

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