The problem and the promise of religious liberty

Joel Harrison

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter examines a problem and a promise for religious liberty discourse. The problem lies in challenges to the claim that religious liberty should be afforded special concern. The chapter argues that this problem is rooted in a liberal political imaginary: a vision of the relationship between civil authority, individuals and groups, in which the task of such authority is to secure personal autonomy. Such an imaginary particularly impacts on the liberty of association. In contrast, the chapter points to a more promising vision of religious liberty: a theopolitical imaginary. Here, religious liberty concerns a particular religious end: freely creating communities of solidarity, fraternity and charity seeking the truth about God. Civil authority is understood as coordinating and encouraging such communities in a shared quest. The chapter then discusses how this vision, although rooted in Christian tradition, offers greater space for plural faiths and associations than the liberal tradition.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFreedom of religion or belief
Subtitle of host publicationcreating the constitutional space for fundamental freedoms
EditorsPaul T. Babie, Neville G. Rochow, Brett G. Scharffs
Place of PublicationCheltenham, UK ; Northampton, USA
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781788977807
ISBN (Print)9781788977791
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


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