Post-Liberal Religious Liberty: Forming Communities of Charity

Joel Harrison is the author of the recently published Post Liberal Religious Liberty: Forming Communities of Charity (Cambridge University Press, 2020). He is Senior Lecturer in Law at Sydney Law School, University of Sydney. The following is an edited version of a conversation with David Taylor at The Eucatastrophe.

DT: Your account of the purpose of religious liberty begins provocatively: “Religious liberty protects the quest for true religion.” What do you mean by “true religion” and how does this differ from the typical use of “religion” in religious liberty discussion?

JH: By true religion, I mean a religious quest to rightly order our lives towards God. Finding out the truth of religion—what it consists of, what is its end—matters. Augustine writes of “right flowing from the source of rightness.” He means forming a community that lives well together, in light of the epiphany of God. True religion then concerns not simply the individual, but the shape of the political community and the role of political authority in furthering the common good. I argue that religious liberty consequently means civil authorities protecting and encouraging this quest. Ultimately, it concerns protecting the free creation of communities of solidarity, fraternity, and charity—the love of God and neighbor.


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Registration and Deregistration of Religious or Belief Communities 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

Presentation at the Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief (November 16, 2020, Warsaw, Poland)

In working with government officials and others around the world, I often hear arguments along these lines: religion and religious extremists pose an existential threat to our country. Freedom of religion or belief is a luxury we cannot afford [1]. We have a responsibility to our people to screen out religious groups that are extremist or a danger to the community. We need to have laws limiting registration and banning extremist groups. Our national security depends on it.

Although this has a certain logic, empirical research shows that this argument turns out to have it backward.  Using registration as a means of screening out new, unknown, or potentially threatening religious groups has been shown to undermine security and increase the likelihood of religion-related violence.


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2020 ICLRS Symposium: Renata Uitz’s Speech

Renáta Uitz is Professor and Chair (Director) of the Comparative Constitutional Law at the Central European University

In addition to the theme of “Rights and Responsibilities,” the 2020 ICLRS Symposium gave tribute to W. Cole Durham, Jr., founder of ICLRS. Professor Uitz’s remarks were part of that tribute.

I have known Cole Durham for almost two decades. First, I met him in the classroom at Central European University that was still in Budapest. Over the years, we spent a lot of time together at conferences and workshops. And I also had the utmost privilege of seeing him interact with national and international civil servants who were preparing to draft or redraft legislation on church/state relations. I learned a lot from Cole over these years. More importantly, I learned an equally great deal from watching him interact with civil servants, activists, church leaders, and especially watch him when his audience did not want to hear what he said. The lessons I take away from these experiences are applicable amidst crises and across divides. They are, of course, relevant for issues of law and religion, but they are especially instructive for any work on resilience and resistance strategies at an age when illiberal and populist political actors are steadily on the rise. These political actors very often instrumentalize religion to sow the seeds of distrust and discord against minorities, and they use the law very often to demonize and stigmatize others, including religious minorities. Cole’s work allows us to study the law and the workings of the law in comparative perspectives. His work teaches us that we should focus not on a single event, no matter how dramatic or spectacular, but put legal rules into a broader context making sure that we understand the larger trends.


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