Suspect Symbols: Value Pluralism as a Theory of Religious Freedom in International Law
62 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2007 Last revised: 14 Jun 2008
The grounds upon which states may limit the freedom to manifest religion or belief are divisive questions in constitutional and international law. The focus of recent inquiry has been on laws which proscribe the wearing of religious symbols in certain aspects of the public sphere, and on the claims more generally to religious and cultural freedom of Muslim minorities in European nation-states. Stepping back from these debates, this Article aims at a more rigorous theoretical treatment of the subject. It asks whether there is a coherent notion of religious freedom in international legal theory and, if not, why not? In identifying certain problematic aspects of the extant literature, an argument is advanced which seeks to overcome the current impasse in liberal theorizing: the idea of value pluralism as a basis for religious freedom in international law. By acknowledging rather than seeking to avoid the disabling indeterminacies of rights discourse, and by recognizing the intrinsic connection between individual autonomy and communal goods, value pluralism opens new pathways for reimagining the limits of liberal theory and for cultivating an ethos of engagement toward currently intractable questions of subjectivity and intersubjectivity.
Keywords: freedom of religion, international law
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