Limitations on Religion in a Liberal Democratic Polity: Christianity and Islam in the Public Order of the European Union
46 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2007 Last revised: 6 Feb 2008
Date Written: December 2007
This paper examines aspects of the European Union's approach to the accession of new member states and the integration of immigrants to show how the Union has viewed religion as a potential threat to the autonomy of the public sphere and to individual autonomy in the private sphere and has required acceptance of limitations on religious influence over law and law-making from both applicant states and individual migrants. It notes how, in common with the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, the EU has been willing to interfere with privacy and individual autonomy in order to protect such principles from the consequences of unlimited religious influence on law and society. Finally the paper considers how the Union's attempts to uphold limitations on religion in the public sphere have been complicated by the partial and contested nature of the secularity of its existing members. It shows how an Islamic presence in the public sphere has been identified by the Union as particularly threatening to the liberal democracy in contrast to its ready acceptance of the public roles of culturally and historically entrenched Christian denominations in many member states.
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