Tag Archives: Religious Pluralism

Pope Francis’s Remarks on “Social Dialogue in a Context of Religious Freedom”

Pope Francis has issued an Apostolic Exhortation–Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”)–which ranges over many subjects, emphasizing in particular and in many places the obligations of Catholics toward the poor and toward realizing just social, political, and economic arrangements.

In a substantial portion of the Exhortation (beginning at paragraph 182), the Pope discusses the social teaching of the Church and he focuses on two issues: the alleviation of poverty and the Church’s special concern for the poor; and “The Common Good and Peace in Society.” As to the latter, and because they involve issues of religion and public life that we consider here at the Center, here are the Pope’s remarks (footnotes omitted) about the importance of “social dialogue in a context of religious freedom,” which conclude his reflections on the social dimension of the Gospel:

255. The Synod Fathers spoke of the importance of respect for religious freedom, viewed as a fundamental human right. This includes “the freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one’s beliefs in public” A healthy pluralism, one which genuinely respects differences and values them as such, does not entail privatizing religions in an attempt to reduce them to the quiet obscurity of the individual’s conscience or to relegate them to the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues or mosques. This would represent, in effect, a new form of discrimination and authoritarianism. The respect due to the agnostic or non-believing minority should not be arbitrarily imposed in a way that silences the convictions of the believing majority or ignores the wealth of religious traditions. In the long run, this would feed resentment rather than tolerance and peace.

256. When considering the effect of religion on public life, one must distinguish the different ways in which it is practiced. Intellectuals and serious journalists frequently descend to crude and superficial generalizations in speaking of the shortcomings of religion, and often prove incapable of realizing that not all believers – or religious leaders – are the same. Some politicians take advantage of this confusion to justify acts of discrimination. At other times, contempt is shown for writings which reflect religious convictions, overlooking the fact that religious classics can prove meaningful in every age; they have an enduring power to open new horizons, to stimulate thought, to expand the mind and the heart. This contempt is due to the myopia of a certain rationalism. Is it reasonable and enlightened to dismiss certain writings simply because they arose in a context of religious belief? These writings include principles which are profoundly humanistic and, albeit tinged with religious symbols and teachings, they have a certain value for reason.

257. As believers, we also feel close to those who do not consider themselves part of any religious tradition, yet sincerely seek the truth, goodness and beauty which we believe have their highest expression and source in God. We consider them as precious allies in the commitment to defending human dignity, in building peaceful coexistence between peoples and in protecting creation. A special place of encounter is offered by new Areopagi such as the Court of the Gentiles, where “believers and non-believers are able to engage in dialogue about fundamental issues of ethics, art and science, and about the search for transcendence”. This too is a path to peace in our troubled world.

Waggoner (ed.), “Religion in the Public Schools”

This month, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers will publish Religion in the Public Schools: Negotiating the New Commons edited by Michael D. Waggoner (University of Northern Iowa). The publisher’s description follows.Religion in The Public Schools

Since September 11, 2001, the profile of religion’s role in our global society has increased significantly. Religion has long been a force in people’s lives as numerous studies and polls show, yet we continue to struggle with understanding differing religious traditions and what they mean for our common life. There are few places where Americans can meet together to learn about each other and to share in the common construction of our futures. One such place for many is public education.

The purpose of this book is to illustrate the complexity of the social, cultural, and legal milieu of schooling in the United States in which the improvement of religious literacy and understanding must take place. Public education is the new commons. We must negotiate this commons in two meanings of that term: first, we must come to mutual understandings and agreement about how to proceed toward a common horizon of a religiously plural America; second, we must work our way through the obstacles in these settings in practical ways to achieve results that work.

Conference, “Religious Freedom, Legal Pluralism and Democratic Constitutionalism”

Our friend Claudia Haupt (Columbia) reaches out with news of an interesting looking conference organized by political scientist Jean Cohen: “Religious Freedom, Legal Pluralism and Democratic Constitutionalism” at Columbia University on February 22-23.  Details follow.

Please save the date for:

Religious Freedom, Legal Pluralism and Democratic Constitutionalism
Organized by Political Science Professor Jean L. Cohen, Columbia University

Room 707, International Affairs Building

Friday, February 22, 2013

10:00am–12:00pm: Panel on Constitutionalism and Legal Pluralism

Paper by Dieter Grimm (Humboldt University) with comments by Andrew Arato (The New School)

2:00–4:00pm: Panel on Religious Legal Pluralism and Family Law

Paper by Linda McClain (Boston University) with comments by Mirjam Kunkler (Princeton University) and Karen Barkey (Columbia University)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Room 707, International Affairs Building

10:00am–12:00pm: Panel on Republicanism and Freedom of Religion

Paper by Michel Troper (Paris X) with comments by Claudia Haupt (Columbia Law) and Stathis Gourgouris (Columbia University)

2:00–4:00pm: Panel on Freedom of Religion and Religious Establishment

Paper by Larry Sager (University of Texas, Austin) with comments by Nancy Rosenblum (Harvard University)

Durham, Kirkham & Lindholm (eds.), “Islam and Political-Cultural Europe”

This December, Ashgate Publishing will publish Islam and Political-Cultural Europe edited by W. Cole Durham Jr. (BYU – J. Reuben Clark Law School), David M. Kirkham (BYU – J. Reuben Clark Law School), and Tore Lindholm (University of Oslo, Norway). The publisher’s description follows.

Islam and Political-Cultural Europe identifies the sometimes confusing and often contentious new challenges that arise in daily life and institutions as Islam settles deeper into Europe. Critiquing past and recent assimilation efforts in the fields of education, finance, and security, the contributors offer prospective solutions to diverse contemporary problems. Exploring the interactions of Muslim, Christian and secular cultures in the context of highly pluralized contemporary European societies, this book offers a valuable tool for those within and outside Europe seeking to understand the far-reaching implications of combining cultures, the struggles of the Muslim-Christian-secular transition, and the progress which the future promises.

Bell on The Status of the Roman Catholic Church and Canon Law in Singapore

Gary F. Bell  (Nat’l U. of Singapore Faculty of Law) has posted Religious Legal Pluralism Revisited – The Status of the Roman Catholic Church and Her Canon Law in Singapore. The abstract follows.

By religious legal pluralism we usually mean state-recognised legal pluralism, such as the kind of legal pluralism implemented in Singapore through the Administration of Muslim Law Act. But there is also religious legal pluralism outside State recognition and enforcement. Many religions have very long legal traditions which have survived, often without much support or official recognition by States (Jewish law, for example). In this paper we shall look at one such tradition, the canon law of the Latin Church of the Roman Catholic Church and its implementation by the Church in Singapore, including the establishment of very busy ecclesiastical tribunals in Singapore to administer disputes relating to the possible nullity of religious marriages, for example. The hope is that this example of Canon Law in Singapore will show that there can be very detailed and formal religious laws implemented by formal institutions such as tribunals outside the ambit of the State.

Patel, “Sacred Ground”

From Random House this month, a new book on anti-Muslim prejudice in the United States, Eboo Patel, Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America (2012). The publisher’s description follows.

In the decade following the attacks of 9/11, suspicion and animosity toward American Muslims has increased rather than subsided. Alarmist, hateful rhetoric once relegated to the fringes of political discourse has now become frighteningly mainstream, with pundits and politicians routinely invoking the specter of Islam as a menacing, deeply anti-American force.

In Sacred Ground, author and renowned interfaith leader Eboo Patel says this prejudice is not just a problem for Muslims but a challenge to the very idea of America. Patel shows us that Americans from George Washington to Martin Luther King Jr. have been “interfaith leaders,” illustrating how the forces of pluralism in America have time and again defeated the forces of Continue reading

Emon, “Religious Pluralism in Islamic Law”

In November, Oxford University Press will publish Religious Pluralism in Islamic Law (OUP November 2012) by Anver M. Emon (U. of Toronto’s Faculty of Law). The publisher’s description follows.

The question of tolerance and Islam is not a new one. Polemicists are certain that Islam is not a tolerant religion. As evidence they point to the rules governing the treatment of non-Muslim permanent residents in Muslim lands, namely the dhimmi rules that are at the center of this study. These rules, when read in isolation, are certainly discriminatory in nature. They legitimate discriminatory treatment on grounds of what could be said to be religious faith and religious difference. The dhimmi rules are often invoked as proof-positive of the inherent intolerance of the Islamic faith (and thereby of any believing Muslim) toward the non-Muslim.
Continue reading

Upcoming Lecture: Volf on Exclusivist Faith in a Pluralist World

The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College lists an upcoming lecture: Religious Exclusivism and Pluralism as a Political Project (Boston College, March 14, 2012, at 5:30 PM).  This lecture, by Miroslav Volf, professor at Yale Divinity School and founding director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, will explore the challenges of a world in which interfaith encounters are increasingly unavoidable.

It goes without saying that in the modern world—both within nations and in the global arena—persons of different religions encounter one another and interact, conduct politics, and do business more and more often, even as their beliefs express exclusive and universal validity.  How, asks Professor Volf, do we then co-exist constructively in a pluralistic society of exclusivist faiths?

Please read the Boisi Center’s abstract of Professor Volf’s lecture, as well as its biography of the professor, after the jump.  (Likewise, see this post on Volf’s recent book, A Public Faith, by CLR’s Professor Movsesian.) Continue reading

Bowen’s “Can Islam Be French?”

Princeton University Press has just published the paperback edition of Can Islam Be French?: Pluralism and Pragmatism in a Secularist State (first published in 2009) by John R. Bowen (Washington University St. Louis).  The publisher’s description follows. — MOD

Can Islam Be French? is an anthropological examination of how Muslims are responding to the conditions of life in France. Following up on his book Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves, John Bowen turns his attention away from the perspectives of French non-Muslims to focus on those of the country’s Muslims themselves. Bowen asks not the usual question–how well are Muslims integrating in France?–but, rather, how do French Muslims think about Islam? In particular, Bowen examines how French Muslims are fashioning new Islamic institutions and developing new ways of reasoning and teaching. He looks at some of the quite distinct ways in which mosques have connected with broader social and political forces, how Islamic educational entrepreneurs have fashioned niches for new forms of schooling, and how major Islamic public actors have set out a specifically French approach to religious norms. All of these efforts have provoked sharp responses in France and from overseas centers of Islamic scholarship, so Bowen also looks closely at debates over how–and how far–Muslims should adapt their religious traditions to these new social conditions. He argues that the particular ways in which Muslims have settled in France, and in which France governs religions, have created incentives for Muslims to develop new, pragmatic ways of thinking about religious issues in French society.

Perry’s “The Pretenses of Loyalty”

John Locke is perhaps the most influential thinker on the American founding generation, one whose ideas permeated the construction of the Constitution.  He is also widely regarded as a vitally important figure in liberal political theory.  In this excellent looking book, The Pretenses of Loyalty: Locke, Liberal Theory, and American Political Theology (OUP 2011), John Perry (Oxford) confronts the intractability of “theo-political conflict” today by considering the complicated intellectual path followed by Locke.  The publisher’s description follows.  — MOD

In the face of ongoing religious conflicts and unending culture wars, what are we to make of liberalism’s promise that it alone can arbitrate between church and state? In this wide-ranging study, John Perry examines the roots of our thinking on religion and politics, placing the early-modern founders of liberalism in conversation with today’s theologians and political philosophers.

From the story of Antigone to debates about homosexuality and bans on religious attire, it is clear that liberalism’s promise to solve all theo-political conflict is a false hope. The philosophy connecting John Locke to John Rawls seeks a world free of tragic dilemmas, where there can be no Antigones. Perry rejects this as an illusion. Disputes like the culture wars cannot be adequately comprehended as border encroachments presided over by an impartial judge. Instead, theo-political conflict must be considered a contest of loyalties within each citizen and believer. Drawing on critics of Rawls ranging from Michael Sandel to Stanley Hauerwas, Perry identifies what he calls a ‘turn to loyalty’ by those who recognize the inadequacy of our usual thinking on the public place of religion. The Pretenses of Loyalty offers groundbreaking analysis of the overlooked early work of Locke, where liberalism’s founder himself opposed toleration.

Perry discovers that Locke made a turn to loyalty analogous to that of today’s communitarian critics. Liberal toleration is thus more sophisticated, more theologically subtle, and ultimately more problematic than has been supposed. It demands not only governmental neutrality (as Rawls believed) but also a reworked political theology. Yet this must remain under suspicion for Christians because it places religion in the service of the state. Perry concludes by suggesting where we might turn next, looking beyond our usual boundaries to possibilities obscured by the liberalism we have inherited.