The Metalegal God

Ecclesiastical Law Journal 16.1, 2014, 147-167

23 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2017 Last revised: 15 Mar 2017

Rafael Domingo

Emory University School of Law; University of Navarra - School of Law

Date Written: March 7, 2017


This paper deals with the relation between God and the secular legal systems of Western liberal democracies. It provides a normative argument for the compatibility of God and secular legal reasoning. In our age, in which believing in God is no longer socially axiomatic and the right to religious freedom protects all kinds of theistic and non-theistic religious beliefs, creeds, and first philosophies, it seems contrary to religious neutrality for secular legal systems to single out God. This paper instead argues that, although God and religion are inextricably intertwined, they affect the legal system in different ways because they are ontologically different. God cannot be reduced to a mere component of theistic religion. This paper argues that a proper understanding of secularization might call for keeping God outside the legal system but not for driving God out of the public sphere of democratic societies. Secular legal systems are not atheist legal systems. Secular legal systems are legal systems ‘without religion’ but not ‘without God.’ Secularization implies some degree of minimal recognition of God as a metalegal concept. The specific degree of recognition of God appropriate for any given political community depends on its cultural and communitarian identity and should be subject to the rules of democratic procedures and majorities. This is the metalegal God.

Keywords: Metalegal God, metalegal concept, secular legal system, toleration, neutrality, freedom of religionmma separated]

Suggested Citation

Domingo, Rafael, The Metalegal God (March 7, 2017). Ecclesiastical Law Journal 16.1, 2014, 147-167. Available at SSRN:

Rafael Domingo (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States


University of Navarra - School of Law ( email )

Universidad de Navarra
Campus Universitario
Pamplona, Navarra 31009

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