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 9: Regulation of religious communities in a multicultural polity

Jaclyn L Neo


This chapter examines state regulation of religious communities within multicultural societies. It employs as the primary organizing factor whether religion is regarded as a private or public subject of regulation. Where religious communities are private actors, they are treated like associations and their members interact with the state primarily as individuals. Where religious communities are treated as public actors, the communal aspect of those communities tends to be emphasized, often over the individual interests within the community. Consequently, the primary regulatory approach towards private religion tends to be one of self-regulation, in addition to general statutory regulation. In comparison, where religious communities are treated as public actors, the state relies on a broader range of regulatory approaches – namely religion-specific statutory regulation and co-regulation – in addition to self-regulation. This chapter examines the modes and dimensions of regulation, the dominant approaches to regulating religious communities, and ideological postures influencing the regulatory reach of the state.

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