Religious Liberty and the Corona Crisis before the German Constitutional Court

Justin Collings 
is Francis R. Kirkham Professor of Law at Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School and author of 
Democracy’s Guardians: A History of the German Federal Constitutional Court, 1951-2001(Oxford University Press, 2015)

Global lockdowns intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 have raised wrenching questions about religious liberty. Although many faith communities have voluntarily shuttered to combat the plague, many religious people have chafed at regulations that require religious sanctuaries to close while permitting liquor stores to offer their “essential services.” Why, the faithful wonder, is booze more essential than the Sacred Host? Why should rum trump Ramadan? Some believers have expressed their anguish in constitutional challenges. In a pair of noteworthy decisions, the German Federal Constitutional Court has grappled with the tension between public health and religious exercise. In both cases, the Court has charted a pragmatic course through the crisis. (more…)

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(Anti)Religious Speech and State Security Measures

A Conversation, organized by Dmytro Vovk
of the Center for Rule of Law and Religion Studies, Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University (Ukraine)

In the realm of religion, freedom of expression may manifest itself as freedom of religious expression and freedom to discuss and criticize religion, its virtues and vices, and its role in society. Both freedoms are essential for democratic states. Freedom of religious expression is crucial for people of faith as it enables worshiping and sharing beliefs, proselytizing, promoting religious values, and enriching public discourse with religious perspectives. On the other hand, in pluralistic societies religion should not be immune from criticism, even strong criticism that targets religious dogmas, manifestations, or believers’ way of life. (more…)

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Symbols, Speech, and Security

Elizabeth A. Clark is Associate Director, International Center for Law and Religion Studies and Regional Advisor for Europe at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University

I recently had the opportunity to be part of a panel at a conference sponsored by the International Association of Religion Journalists. I was particularly struck by how the difficult challenges journalists face in many parts of the world – prison terms, lawsuits, harassment by displeased religious or civic leaders – paralleled those of religious believers in their countries, particularly religious minorities. This similarity shouldn’t have been surprising. Research has shown a strong correlation between restrictions on religious freedom and decreased access to a large number of other fundamental rights and economic goods, including freedom of speech.[1] As Nobel-prize winning economist Amartya Sen notes, freedoms tend to come as “bundled commodities.”[2] (more…)

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