Thoughts on Law, Religion, and Society

Ruth Junginger de Andrade is an attorney and mediator with nine years of conciliation and mediation experience in both legal and extralegal contexts. She has been a member of the São Paulo Inter-religion Forum for a Culture of Peace and Religious Belief since 2016 and a member of the Commission on Religious Freedom as part of the OAB/SP (São Paulo Order of Attorneys) since 2014.

The following is a translated summary of her remarks as a panelist addressing “Law, Religion, and Society” at the First Brazilian Symposium on Freedom of Religion or Belief (2022).

The Persistence of Religion

Law, religion, and society involve complex themes that require profound reflection. Since the beginning of time, religion and sociology have been interconnected—but the religious scene is changing.


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The Place of Religion in the Public Sphere: Speaking the Unspeakable

Andrea Pin is Associate Professor of Comparative Public Law, University of Padua,and Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law & Religion Emory University

[S]ecular societies …, when confronted by the tragedies related to the mortal condition of human life, open public spaces for religious celebrations and the symbolic expression of truths. In the face of disasters that wound the civil community, the steadfastness of religious resistance to the nihilism of death appears to all as a fortress protecting the irreplaceable nature of humanity. Those affected in families and communities where justice seems inaccessible and human resources impotent do not lose hope. It is a hope that can only be assured by the justice and the love of the Creator. In such cases, the theme of man’s final destiny becomes also a public question.

Above is an excerpt from paragraph 47 of Religious Freedom for the Good of All – Theological Approaches and Contemporary Challenges, a document issued by the International Theological Commission of the Catholic Church in April 2019. It gets as close to prophesy as anything can.


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Neutrality and “Religious Freedom for the Good of All”

Jeremy Patrick is a Lecturer for the University of Southern Queensland School of Law and Justice

There are many laudable statements in “Religious Freedom for the Good of All.”  The document acknowledges the Church must exist in a pluralistic and multicultural society (para. 10), that individual freedom is the birthright of every human being (para. 37), that coercion is not a legitimate means of religious conversion (para. 41), that the existence of “intermediary bodies” (including religious associations) between the individual and the state is crucial for a well-functioning society (para. 52), and that the free exercise of religion should be limited only when the rights of others or the necessities of public order are infringed (para. 79).  These may not be new positions for the Catholic Church since 1965, but they certainly represent real progress in the Church’s understanding of religious freedom across its long (and in the document, carefully-elided) history (see, e.g., para. 27).

The irony is that they are all also quintessential elements of the self-professedly “neutral” secular liberal democratic state that is repeatedly castigated throughout the document. According to the document, the liberal state is (somehow) simultaneously indifferent to religion (and thus responsible for the rise of “religious radicalization”) but also actively hostile to religion (and thus responsible for a “soft totalitarianism”) (para. 4). The heart of the problem, we’re told repeatedly, is the false idol of state neutrality towards religion (para. 5, 62-65, and 86).


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