Dynamic Law and Religion in Europe: Acknowledging Change: Choosing Change

46 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2014

Date Written: December 1, 2013


The process through which European States and institutions have responded to the social and cultural mutation in the European religious landscape has been met with increasing criticism. Depending upon the interests and the agendas at stake, European instances have been blamed for being too weak or too strong in their policies affecting religion, for being biased either in favor or against religion and ultimately for an insufficient commitment to worldwide religious liberty. This paper aims at responding to criticism through a three-step approach. First, it will highlight the peculiarity and salience of developments in European law and religion, based on the four projects that drove the interaction of law and religion in the European integration process: the human rights project, the single market project, the secular project and the religious project. In this part, I will suggest that, prior to any discussion on the direction that Europeans should take in the future, it is necessary to acknowledge Europe as an extraordinary laboratory of equality and diversity, allowing for an extremely dynamic interaction of law and religion to develop. Second, the paper will underline the concoction of human rights and a single market in the making of European dynamic law and religion, and will study the implications thereof. Third, the paper will point at the emergence of a threefold pattern of clashing forces and ideas: the secular versus the religious; States versus Europe; and majorities versus minorities. I will observe that a defensive strategy has fuelled the threefold divisive pattern, consecrating a paradigm increasingly at odds with the dramatically changed picture of beliefs and convictions in Europe, I will argue that the disconnection between the old, dominant paradigm and the various European realities, means that a new paradigm is badly needed. I will conclude that Europe needs the courage to honor its inclination towards a dynamic, constantly evolving interaction of law and religion. This will imply acknowledging change as a key feature of the European experience with law and religion, and, once again, ‘choosing change’ in order to enhance religious pluralism, reassess the role of the State as the ‘neutral and impartial organizer of the practising of the various religions, denominations and beliefs,’ (European Court of Human Rights, 2001) assert the European Union as ‘impartial’ and ‘not aligned with any specific religion or belief’ (EU Guidelines on the protection and promotion of freedom of religion or belief, 2013), and encourage actors involved in religion and belief to reinvent structures and actions.

Keywords: Religious freedom, Church and state relations, Church and state relations

Suggested Citation

Ventura, Marco, Dynamic Law and Religion in Europe: Acknowledging Change: Choosing Change (December 1, 2013). Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Research Paper 2013/ 91, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2376194 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2376194

Marco Ventura (Contact Author)

University of Siena ( email )

Via Banchi di Sotto, 55

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