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Monday, September 12, 2016

"Freedom Of, For, From, and In Religion: Differing Dimensions of a Common Right?"

This past weekend, I attended a fascinating, rich conference at St. Hughes College, Oxford, that was organized by the International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies (ICLARS).  The theme was "Freedom Of/For/From/In Religion:  Differing Dimensions of a Common Right?" (more info here).  Here's the conference blurb:

Freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), once considered to be the “first” freedom, has become a controversial right. In particular, the practical possibility of implementing FoRB in impartial ways are increasingly questioned. Critics argue that FoRB cannot deliver what it promises: an equal share of freedom for people of different or no religion. Further, it is claimed that the right of FoRB, as it is regulated in international and constitutional law, is intrinsically biased because it reflects its Western and Christian origins.

Part of the problem is due to the fact that FoRB is a complex notion, including different dimensions that require careful consideration. Freedom of religion or belief, as a right recognized for every human being, is the first dimension, but not the only one. Freedom from religion, that is the right to live one’s life without being compelled to perform religious acts, is another and freedom for religion, which concerns the institutional side of this right (what was once called “libertas ecclesiae”) is a third dimension that demands consideration. Finally, freedom in religion concerns the rights that the faithful (and sometimes not so faithful) are entitled to enjoy within their religious communities.

Besides the fact that the conference gave me an excuse to re-visit some of my favorite pubs from my undergraduate days, it was rewarding and fascinating to hear papers, and hear about experiences and impressions, from scholars, lawyers, and activists from outside North America and Europe.  Doing so puts some things in perspective, both because others were dealing with very different issues (e.g., bans on conversions and proselytism) and because they were dealing with similar issues (e.g., religious exemptions) but in different ways.  I also thought the "four pronouns" device suggested in the theme was really insightful and provocative.  (My own paper was called "Freedom For Religion:  (Yet) Another View of the Cathedral."  Not exactly original, I know . . . .)  Hats off to Cole Durham, Brett Scharffs, and Donlu Thayer, of BYU, for organizing an excellent event.

Posted by Rick Garnett on September 12, 2016 at 03:35 PM in Rick Garnett | Permalink

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