Religion and Constitutionalism

MTA Working Paper No. 2015/05

83 Pages Posted: 26 May 2015

See all articles by Gábor Halmai

Gábor Halmai

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW)

Date Written: May 21, 2015


This paper that deals with the practice of religious freedom in countries representing distinct models of state-church relations in different forms of constitutionalism from both a normative/theoretical and an empirical perspective. The normative part of the paper examines the characteristics of liberal versus constitutionalism with a special focus on different models of state-religion relationships while the empirical part will compare different national constitutional regulations on religious rights to identify how much religious freedom is provided in the different countries belonging to distinct models of state-church relationship. To highlight the theoretical challenges through concrete cases I have selected three countries: Egypt (a country that between 2011 and 2013 started to build up a democratic system with and illiberal theocratic constitutionalism), Hungary (which became a liberal democracy after 1989-90, but since 2010 backsliding to an illiberal constitutional system, while still having a liberal separationist approach in its constitution) and Israel (a liberal democracy without a constitution with a very special accomodationist model). The joint characteristic of these cases is that they represent ethnically, religiously or politically, ideologically deeply divided societies and/or failed states, which offer an alternative idea of non-Euro-Atlantic liberal constitutionalism in an age of ‘multiple constitutionalism’. In the cases presented it is conclusive that the political aspirations for more illiberal constitutionalism seemed to be the decisive element to find similarly restrictive measures for freedom of religion. The paper concludes that the different constitutional models of state-religion relationships alone do not indicate the very status of religious rights in a polity.

Keywords: Constitutionalism, religious freedom, Israel, Egypt, Hungary

Suggested Citation

Halmai, Gábor, Religion and Constitutionalism (May 21, 2015). MTA Working Paper No. 2015/05. Available at SSRN: or

Gábor Halmai (Contact Author)

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

Via Bolognese 156 (Villa Salviati)
50-139 Firenze
39-055-4686-401 (Phone)

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