I’m slightly late in noting this, but our friend Professor Marco Ventura (Siena; KU Leuven) has recently published this very interesting book, From Your Gods to Our Gods: A History of Religion in Indian, South African, and British Courts (Cascade Books 2014). Marco’s work is always penetrating and insightful, and this looks to be no exception. Here is the description:
The global world debates secularism, freedom of belief, faith-based norms, the state’s arbitration of religious conflicts, and the place of the sacred in the public sphere. In facing these issues, Britain, India, and South Africa stand out as unique laboratories. They have greatly influenced the rest of the world. As single countries and together as a whole, the three have moved from the colonial clash of antagonistic religions (of your gods) to an era when it has become impossible to dissociate your god from my god. Today both belong to the same blurred reality of our gods. Through a narrative account of British, South African, and Indian court cases from 1857 to 2009, the author draws an unconventional history of the process leading from the encounter with the gods of the other to the forging of a postmodern, common, and global religion. Across ages, borders, faiths, and laws, the three countries have experienced the ambivalent interaction of society, politics, and beliefs. Hence the lesson the world might learn from them: our gods promise an idealized purity, but they can only become real in the everyday creation of mixed identities, hybrid deities, and shared fears and hopes.
In March, Walter De Gruyter Inc. will release “Religion and Human Rights: Global Challenges from Intercultural Perspectives” edited by Wilhelm Gräb (Humboldt University) and Lars Charbonnier (Führungsakademie für Kirche und Diakonie gAG “Leadership Academy for Church and Diakonia”). The publisher’s description follows:
Current processes of globalization are challenging Human Rights and the attempts to institutionalize them in many ways. The question of the connection between religion and human rights is a crucial point here. The genealogy of the Human Rights is still a point of controversies in the academic discussion. Nevertheless, there is consensus that the Christian tradition – especially the doctrine that each human being is an image of God – played an important role within the emergence of the codification of the Human Rights in the period of enlightenment. It is also obvious that the struggle against the politics of apartheid in South Africa was strongly supported by initiatives of churchy and other religious groups referring to the Human Rights. Christian churches and other religious groups do still play an important role in the post-apartheid South Africa. They have a public voice concerning all the challenges with which the multiethnic and economically still deeply divided South African society is faced with. The reflections on these questions in the collected lectures and essays of this volume derive from an academic discourse between German and South African scholars that took place within the German-South African Year of Science 2012/13.
This past November, Juta – Academic published Traditional African Religions in South African Law by Tom Bennett (University of Cape Town). The publisher’s description follows.
Traditional African beliefs, together with African cultural traditions, are enjoying a new-found respect in South Africa, due in large part to the advent of the country’s democratic constitution. In fact, a large majority of the South African population adheres to some form of traditional belief, often in combination with observance of other religions. Even so, the traditional faiths are poorly understood and, in spite of constitutional guarantees, receive far from equal treatment, a situation quite at odds with the country’s commitment to equality and religious and cultural diversity.
While there are numerous works on the subject of religion in Africa, there are no works on traditional African religions and their legal implications. The issue is nevertheless of serious political and legal concern in South Africa, since it raises diverse questions involving freedom of religion, the equal treatment of religions, traditional healing, witchcraft, animal sacrifice, circumcision, marriage and burial.
Johan D. van der Vyver (Emory University School of Law) has posted The Contours of Religious Liberty in South Africa. The abstract follows. – ARH
As far as religion and religious diversity are concerned, the South African Constitution can be described as one of profound toleration and accommodation. The Constitutional Court has on several occasions emphasized the importance of religion for the State. South Africa is therefore not a secular State but can best be described as a religiously neutral State.
The constitutional principle of non-discrimination applies not only to discrimination by the State, but also to discrimination by private individual and non-State institutions, including religious institutions. The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Discrimination Act of 2000 amplified the constitutional proscription of discriminatory practices. When applying the non-discrimination decree to religious institutions, State courts will not unduly interfere in the internal sphere sovereignty of such institutions. Continue reading