The State, Civil Society and Religious Freedom

Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 2012; DOI: 10.1093/ojlr/rws043

Posted: 30 Dec 2012

Date Written: December 12, 2012


How is the legal principle of religious freedom supposed to regulate the relationship between state and religion, especially in cases where state and religion seem to make competing claims? This article argues that, in order to fully appreciate this complex relationship, we need to reflect on the proper place of the state within society. In both the Catholic and the Reformed lines of thought it has traditionally been emphasized that society doesn’t consist merely of individuals and a state. There is also a variety of institutions (for example families and civil society organizations) providing different, yet equally necessary, goods. Applying this way of thinking about the state in a theory on religious freedom, provides a distinctive and promising theoretical point of view and is more likely to guarantee adequate protection in a range of current religious freedom cases in both Europe and the U.S. than the dominant individual autonomy perspective.

Keywords: religious freedom, state and religion, civil society Catholic and Reformed lines of thought, individual autonomy perspective, Europe, US

Suggested Citation

Brink, Jaco and ten Napel, Hans-Martien, The State, Civil Society and Religious Freedom (December 12, 2012). Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 2012; DOI: 10.1093/ojlr/rws043, Available at SSRN:

Jaco Brink

Independent ( email )

Hans-Martien Ten Napel (Contact Author)

Leiden Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 9520
2300 RA Leiden, NL-2300RA

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