Politics of Religious Freedom
edited by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Saba Mahmood and Peter G. Danchin
University of Chicago Press, 2015
Cloth: 978-0-226-24847-9 | Paper: 978-0-226-24850-9 | Electronic: 978-0-226-24864-6
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.001.0001
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

In a remarkably short period of time, the realization of religious freedom has achieved broad consensus as an indispensable condition for peace. Faced with widespread reports of religious persecution, public and private actors around the world have responded with laws and policies designed to promote freedom of religion. But what precisely is being promoted? What are the cultural and epistemological assumptions underlying this response, and what forms of politics are enabled in the process?
           
The fruits of the three-year Politics of Religious Freedom research project, the contributions to this volume unsettle the assumption—ubiquitous in policy circles—that religious freedom is a singular achievement, an easily understood state of affairs, and that the problem lies in its incomplete accomplishment. Taking a global perspective, the more than two dozen contributors delineate the different conceptions of religious freedom predominant in the world today, as well as their histories and social and political contexts. Together, the contributions make clear that the reasons for persecution are more varied and complex than is widely acknowledged, and that the indiscriminate promotion of a single legal and cultural tool meant to address conflict across a wide variety of cultures can have the perverse effect of exacerbating the problems that plague the communities cited as falling short.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan is professor in and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. She is also an affiliated professor of law at Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law.Elizabeth Shakman Hurd is associate professor in the Departments of Political Science and (by courtesy) Religious Studies at Northwestern University. Saba Mahmood is associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Peter G. Danchin is professor of law and director of the International and Comparative Law Program at the University of Maryland School of Law.

REVIEWS

"The principle of religious freedom, central to the liberal politics of the modern world, is increasingly becoming an object of critical reflection. This collection, edited by four distinguished scholars, is a welcome contribution to this important topic. I have learnt something from each of these thoughtful essays. Everyone interested in recent debates on secularism will benefit from reading them."
— Talal Asad, Graduate Center, City University of New York

"This extraordinary volume brings together the leading scholars of the idea and practice of  'religious freedom' today, in conversation with each other and with their critics. Beyond any simple for/against dichotomy, the contributors show how the admirable resonance of 'religious freedom' masks a more troubling reality, both at the historical origins of the concept and in its contemporary strategic deployments. Among the book’s many contributions is its sustained and careful examination of the mutual entanglement of 'religion,' in its modern semantic range, and law, and the implication of both in national and global politics, from early modernity forward. The Politics of Religious Freedom is a definitive collection of the best critical work on the subject."
— Robert Orsi, Northwestern University

“The contributors repeatedly make the point [that], rather than a single, stable principle of universal application, religious freedom is polyvalent and reflects the historical conditions of its composition. . . . Highly recommended.”
 
— Choice

“A book which is deeply satisfying both for quality of writing and for quality of scholarship, one which I look forward to using extensively in my work and in the construction of syllabi."
— Jessica L. Radin, University of Toronto, Middle East Law and Governance

"Taken individually, these essays are erudite, consistently interesting, and well written. Taken collectively, they are a tour de force for deepening our knowledge and understanding of a concept many or most of us have simply taken for granted in our intellectual lives.”
— Daniel Liechty, Illinois State University, Religion

"Hurd argues that the pursuit of freedom of religion as a policy goal has worked to produce, reaffirm, and/or reify various forms of difference, both between Euro-American nations and the recipients of their cultural imperialism, and between legally specified religious (and non-religious) 'communities' throughout the world. . . . this edited volume brings together anthropologists, historians, lawyers, political scientists, and scholars of religion to discuss (and 'unsettle') the assumption 'that religious freedom is easily recognized and understood, and that the only problem lies in its incomplete realization'. The collection is divided into four parts, each of which is prefaced by one of the four editors . . . These introductions usefully contextualize the thematic links between the essays in each section, each of which contains an example of the 'crazy quilt of local solutions' by which conflicts over religion are managed."
— Religious Studies Review

TABLE OF CONTENTS

- Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Saba Mahmood, Peter G. Danchin
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0001
[religion, religious freedom, politics and religion, law and religion, human rights advocacy, Myanmar, Pakistan]
This essay introduces readers to the essays in the volume and its cross cutting themes and topics, including the histories and genealogies of the concept of religious freedom, the difficulties of locating and defining religion, and the interrelationship of law and religion. Examples from Pakistan and Myanmar illustrate the challenges of religious freedom advocacy today. The deployments of religious freedom are multiple and contradictory, at times used to identify the virtuous and condemn the oppressor, other times on behalf of women and minorities, and sometimes to serve narrow sectarian interests of missionaries, governments, and religious authorities. There are significant and not yet fully explored connections between religious freedom advocacy, economic liberalization, and the “free market” model of religious growth. (pages 1 - 10)
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Part 1: Religion

- Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0002
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- Robert Yelle
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0003
[Judaism, Early Modern Europe, political theology, Antisemitism, Jewish law, Reformation theology]
This essay argues that a theological genealogy of religious freedom is needed. In Reformation theology, Judaism and Jewish ritual law became the negative image for the proposition that the state can never be the site for salvation. This negative image structures today’s understanding that true religion is that which can never be in partnership with the state. Yelle emphasizes the urgent task of reading Christian theology in order to understand how unfree we are. (pages 17 - 28)
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- Yvonne Sherwood
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0004
[religion or belief, belief, United Kingdom, enlightenment, equality regulation]
Bringing together the frontispiece to Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie with recent religion or belief legislation in England and Wales, this essay displays the always unstable tension between the modern secular settlement and an always shifting set of players representing the ongoing threat to that settlement, alternatively configured as theology, religion, or belief. “Belief” paradoxically figures in this uneasy settlement both as radically free, emblematic of a free people and as always threatening to a contained, domesticated democratic freedom. (pages 29 - 44)
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- Elizabeth Shakman Hurd
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0005
[religious freedom, religious freedom advocacy, belief, globalization, politics, international relations, free religious market]
This essay examines the effects of conceiving of religion as belief in the context of international religious freedom promotion. Hurd points out that the lived reality of many religious practitioners cannot be reduced to belief, and that the tendency to do so among international religious freedom advocates inevitably privileges some individuals and groups over others. Hurd emphasizes the seductive link to economic and political freedom when belief and choice are made primary, leading to the marketization and confessionalization of religion—and even to something like mind control. (pages 45 - 56)
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- Webb Keane
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0006
[religious freedom, religion, belief, morality, irreligion, Christian Moderns]
This essay contrasts religion as belief with religion as morality. The former understands religion as propositional, while the latter is a matter of divinely sanctioned sensibilities. Keane emphasizes that proponents of religion and irreligion alike are concerned with how individuals make decisions about questions of meaning and value. (pages 57 - 65)
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- Courtney Bender
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0007
[separation of church and state, pluralism, United States, neoliberalism, secularism, free market model of religion]
This essay illustrates the politics of American religious pluralism in the half-century of US history. American religious sociologists have moved from an understanding of religious pluralism as having a secularizing effect tending to produce a common civic faith to an understanding of religious pluralism founded on a market model as vitalizing religion. Both understandings affirm and underwrite an American exceptionalism that regards the United States as uniquely free in matters of religion. (pages 66 - 77)
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- Greg Johnson
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0008
[Hawaii, burial practices, religious freedom, native religions, indigenous rights, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act NAGPRA, sovereignty]
Using the legal battles surrounding care for ancestors in Hawaiˋi, Johnson queries whether a focus on the politics of religious freedom actually disenfranchises marginalized groups whose religious practices have long been considered suspect by the mainstream. (pages 78 - 88)
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- Rosalind I. J. Hackett
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0009
[Africa, African traditional religion, indigenous religion, religious freedom]
This essay describes the active resistance to both Christian and Islamic efforts in sub-Saharan Africa to exclude the indigenous religious traditions of Africa from legal protection. African traditional or indigenous religions are often not acknowledged as “religions” due to a lack of centralized structure and leadership. Hackett explores the legal prejudice African religious practitioners encounter both locally and internationally. (pages 89 - 98)
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Part 2: History

- Elizabeth Shakman Hurd
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0010
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- Evan Haefeli
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0011
[tolerance, toleration, intolerance, religious freedom, persecution, neutrality]
This essay documents the wide variety of forms that “toleration” has assumed in an array of historical and geographic contexts. In the act of definition, certain historical arrangements with respect to toleration, intolerance, persecution, religious freedom, and neutrality are privileged while others are ignored. Haefeli shows that narratives of toleration and religious freedom inevitably pass off a partisan narrative as a universal one. (pages 105 - 114)
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- David Sorkin
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0012
[Jews, Judaism, nineteenth century, citizenship, Jewish emancipation, religious minority, minority rights]
This essay catalogues and contextualizes the different meanings of what was known as “Jewish emancipation” across Europe over the course of the long nineteenth century, emphasizing the trade-offs made by various communities in exchange for legal and political recognition by the state. Sorkin emphasizes the need to study Jewish citizenship and emancipation both locally and comparatively. (pages 115 - 126)
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- Robert W. Hefner
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0013
[religious freedom, religious governance, democracy and democratization, Netherlands, consociational government, pillorization]
This essay queries the often-assumed link between democracy and religious freedom, displaying the variety of forms of religious governance that have occurred under democratization. It emphasizes the particular pressures exerted by local context. The essay focuses on the consociational government of the Netherlands, which guaranteed political representation to the four ethnic or religious “pillars” of Dutch society: Roman Catholics, orthodox Protestants, reformed Protestants, and secular humanists. (pages 127 - 134)
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- Samuel Moyn
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0014
[Catholics, Catholicism, Evangelicals, Evangelicalism, religious freedom, Vatican II, United States]
This essay charts the dramatic shift in orientation among conservative Catholics in the United States, for whom, prior to Vatican II, religious freedom had been rejected as a catalyst of secularism. Responding to anxieties about Soviet Russia, conservative Catholic Americans recuperated and re-purposed religious freedom in an effort to stave off secularism and communism. This “Catholic pivot” also opened the door for contemporary alliances with evangelical Protestants, for whom religious freedom stands not as part of a secular culture of individual choice and social tolerance but as a fundamental principle of religious morality. (pages 135 - 141)
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- Saba Mahmood
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0015
[Coptic church, Egypt, Ottoman Empire, religious minorities, politics]
This essay examines the religious politics of the Coptic minority in Egypt since the minority settlements of the late Ottoman Empire. Mahmood finds that the meaning and practice of religious freedom has shifted in response to geopolitics, local conditions, and the changing terrain of postcolonial politics. (pages 142 - 148)
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- Benjamin Schonthal
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0016
[Ceylon, Sri Lanka, religious freedom, constitution(s), religion and law, comparative constitutionalism]
This essay examines the religion provisions of the constitution of Ceylon/Sri Lanka on the cusp of the country’s independence from Britain. Schonthal problematizes the presumption that religious freedom stands outside of struggles for power by presenting the specific historical conditions in which particular and partial conceptions of religious rights jostled for authority at a formative moment in modern Sri Lankan history. (pages 149 - 157)
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- Nandini Chatterjee
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0017
[India, religious establishment, Indian constitution, legal history, jurisdiction, Indian secularism]
This essay reviews a series of controversies involving different conceptions of religious freedom in India, and charts the clashes between religious freedom conceptualized as jurisdictional autonomy versus religious freedom conceived as social justice justifying state intervention following the promulgation of the Indian constitution in 1950. (pages 158 - 170)
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Part 3: Law and Politics

- Peter G. Danchin
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0018
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- Waheeda Amien
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0019
[South Africa, Muslim marriages, South African Constitution, Bill of Rights, legal reform, constitutional court, religious freedom]
This essay documents the struggle for recognition of Muslim marriages in South Africa. Amien examines how legal reform efforts of Muslim communities diverge from the formal rights-based jurisprudence developed by the South African Constitutional Court. (pages 179 - 193)
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- Nadia Marzouki
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0020
[Tunisia, Nahda, Sharia, Arab spring, constitutions, North Africa, Islamist politics]
Marzouki considers Nahda’s efforts to include a new provision in the Tunisian constitution recognizing sharia as “the main source of legislation” and limiting freedom of expression on certain religious grounds. The right to religious freedom has not been the driving force in the Tunisian revolution nor has it been prominent in the discourse of the ruling Islamist political party, Nahda. Rather than religious freedom, Nahda and Tunisian intellectuals are redefining Islam as the dominant ethical and cultural resource for Tunisian political life. (pages 194 - 206)
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- Lori G. Beaman
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0021
[Canada, establishment, Québec, Christianity, culture]
Long-venerated American doctrines of non-establishment and free exercise, far from being neutral or universal, operate to encapsulate and entrench particular historical and cultural understandings of both religion and the right. Beaman suggests that Canadian courts have re-described Christianity as culture, enabling the continuation of a particular of form Christian legal dominance. (pages 207 - 219)
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- Elizabeth A. Castelli
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0022
[American Catholics, Fortnight of Freedom, Thomas More, Leadership Conference on Women Religious, US Catholicism]
This essay describes American Catholic conceptions of and activism around the right to religious freedom, focusing on the “Fortnight of Freedom” campaign announced by the US bishops. The Fortnight begins on the feast day shared by St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, two martyrs who stood up to corrupt state authority, and ends on US Independence Day. Castelli contrasts the bishops’ vigorous advocacy for religious freedom with the Catholic church’s own policy towards the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which has limited US religious women’s freedom of conscience. (pages 220 - 230)
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- Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0023
[US Supreme Court, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, First Amendment, US constitution, religion clauses, US religious politics]
This essay argues that the decision in Employment Division v. Smith has shaped the contemporary politics of religious freedom in the United States. Sullivan describes the diversity of religious communities and organizations that came together in opposition to the Smith decision, which was widely perceived as a threat to religion. Post-Smith, a new accommodation between the religion clauses of the First Amendment favors the rights of religions communities over those of individuals. (pages 231 - 239)
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- Peter G. Danchin
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0024
[US Supreme Court, ECHR, Lautsi, jurisdiction, Right to religious freedom, First Amendment]
This essay compares the recent decision by the US Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC with the ECHR decisions in Lautsi v. Italy and Dahlab v. Switzerland cases. This comparison displays the essential contestability of the subject and meaning of the right to religious freedom. This form of reasoning is both premised on and reinscribes the underlying foundational distinction between inner belief and outward manifestation that defines the exercise of modern secular power. (pages 240 - 252)
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- Ann Pellegrini
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0025
[secularism, protestantism, US Supreme Court, disestablishment, free exercise, First Amendment]
Taking the landmark case of Everson v. Board of Education as her launching point, Pellegrini shows how the combined effect of the disestablishment and free exercise clause has generated a particular form of Christian secularism in American legal and public culture. Certain religious claims and practices enter the public sphere marked as “secular,” while others do not. Pelligrini examines the ways in which Protestant assumptions underlie secular premises in First Amendment jurisprudence. (pages 253 - 262)
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Part 4: Freedom

- Saba Mahmood
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0026
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- Cécile Laborde
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0027
[freedom of conscience, secularism, religious liberty, political philosophy, normative political theory, belief]
Laborde argues against the notion that, insomuch as conscience is the proper locus of modern religion, it is advisable to extend state protection to other strongly held beliefs that exert a similar moral pull on individuals. Such a proposal is limited, Laborde suggests, in that it excludes communal forms of life that exert a force on individuals comparable to strong beliefs. Laborde remains sympathetic to the project of formulating a normative conception of the right to religious liberty that would be more capacious in accommodating a range of beliefs and practices that are not simply religious. (pages 269 - 279)
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- Noah Salomon
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0028
[South Sudan, Christianity, Law and politics, Religious pluralism, Islam, indigenous religion, post-conflict political order]
This essay discusses the law and politics of religious freedom in the recently created state of South Sudan. Christianity often serves as a proxy for national culture and marginalizes indigenous African traditions and Islam. Categorizing the populace according to faith affiliations forecloses and solidifies religious boundaries in a country where boundaries are fluid and the socio-political order is in transition. (pages 280 - 288)
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- Michael Lambek
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0029
[belief, conscience, Madagascar, indigenous religion, individualism]
Lambek considers the epistemic dislocation of privileging the individual as against those whose sense of self is embedded within the personhood of ancestors, both dead and alive. Using the example of Madagascar, he argues that certain religious beliefs are more legible to the governing elite than others. Lambek describes a variety of ways of being religious in Madagascar that not only cross borders of faith traditions but exceed the categories of belief and conscience altogether. (pages 289 - 300)
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- Hussein Ali Agrama
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0030
[Egypt, Egyptian courts, Nasr Abu Zayd, secularism, neutrality, public and private, majority, minority]
Taking as an example the courts of the modern Egyptian state, this essay challenges the assumption that the modern state can be a neutral arbiter between competing systems of beliefs. Agrama argues that in any polity the values of the minority are always more subject to the hermeneutics of suspicion than are those of the majority. This is not a result of the failure of the state to be neutral but is rather inherent to the project of secularism. (pages 301 - 312)
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- Mathijs Pelkmans
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0031
[Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, religious freedom, Russia, USSR, neoliberalism]
This essay charts the unexpected consequences of political, economic, and religious liberalization in post-Soviet Central Asia. It reveals the winners and losers in the new free market in religion in the region as entrepreneurial forms of religion, Christian and Muslim, take advantage of new spaces opened up in the shift to a free market economy. (pages 313 - 323)
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- Wendy Brown
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226248646.003.0032
[freedom, Martin Luther King, Plato, Socrates, public and private, liberalism]
This essay uses the writings of Plato and Martin Luther King to call into question the neat separation that the liberal conception of religious freedom draws between the privacy of conscience and the publicity of political action. Brown invites us to consider that freedom—in its various formulations—is not necessarily opposed to submission but subject to various forms of authority, whether it be the authority of god, state, reason, self, rights, or justice. (pages 324 - 334)
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Contributors

Index