Can God and Caesar Coexist?

Can God and Caesar Coexist?: Balancing Religious Freedom and International Law

S. J.
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Can God and Caesar Coexist?
    Book Description:

    Father Robert F. Drinan-priest, scholar, lawyer, politician, activist, and ethicist-has spent his life working to strengthen human rights. In this important book, Father Drinan explores the state of religious freedom worldwide, arguing that international law and legal institutions have not gone far enough to protect religious freedom. The international community, says Father Drinan, has been slow to recognize the urgent need of balancing the requirements of a pluralistic society with the demands of religious freedom.

    Despite numerous proclamations from the United Nations and from individual nations about the importance of religious freedom, says Father Drinan, there is still no covenant, legally binding instrument, or world tribunal to monitor freedom of religion. Drinan explores the status of religious freedom in certain Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Communist societies whose doctrines may promote intolerance. And he asserts that the silence of international law allows nations to continue to punish persons who practice a faith viewed unfavorably by the government.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13371-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. I A New Global Right: Religious Freedom
    (pp. 1-7)

    Scores of constitutions drawn up since the end of World War II have proclaimed religious freedom as one of the most fundamental rights known to humanity. Similarly, international covenants of human rights have exalted the right to religious liberty as a privilege that is so foundational and precious that it should be guaranteed by international law.

    Support for the right to practice the religion of one’s choice is very new in human history, and it prompts dozens of questions. If the new right to religious freedom were accepted and enforced, for example, would the world be spared the savagery of...

  4. II The Dimensions of the Freedom of Religion and of Conscience
    (pp. 8-29)

    In the years since World War II the entire world has repeatedly and insistently proclaimed its determination to maximize religious freedom. The planet’s 191 nations have not proposed, much less promulgated, a binding covenant on religious freedom, such as the several covenants on torture, freedom of the press, the rights of women, and the duties owed to refugees. Still, the privileges solemnly proclaimed for religion and its adherents manifest a sincere, worldwide conviction that religion is very special and that society and its laws must give it special deference: it seems to be assumed that law must yield to the...

  5. III Religion in the Structure of the United Nations
    (pp. 30-47)

    The reverence for religious freedom in all of the documents issued by the international community, both before and after the drafting of the United Nations Charter, has been astonishing. The right to worship God has now been granted a place equal to, if not superior to, the high place given to the right to a free press, the right to vote, and the right to due process in criminal proceedings.

    Despite the massive secularization of society that has been developing since around 1850, the United Nations, reflecting on the genocide of the Jews during World War II, recognized the need...

  6. IV Religious Freedom in the United States
    (pp. 48-85)

    Many observers of religious freedom proclaim that the United States has reached the best accord in the world between government and religion, but this generalization is open to many reservations. First, every nation has its own story and its own traditions, so it is not clear that any conclusion as to the “best” way to handle church-state relations can be universally accepted. Perhaps guidelines could be developed for predominantly Christian nations, but here again each nation has a distinctive history that must today accommodate situations that were unimaginable even a few years ago. Some Americans urge a deemphasis on religion,...

  7. V Religious Freedom and the European Court of Human Rights
    (pp. 86-95)

    If one is looking for the prototype of a world court that resolves cases involving religious freedom, the first tribunal to evaluate is the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). An excellent book on this topic,Freedom of Religion under the European Convention on Human Rights, by Carolyn Evans, offers reasons to see the approach followed by the ECHR as promising. It also, however, offers reasons to question the extent to which any judicial review can set boundary lines between the aspirations of religious persons and the demands of the state. Even laws guaranteeing religious freedom are strained in the...

  8. VI Vatican II Vigorously Defends Religious Freedom
    (pp. 96-112)

    Efforts to develop the right to religious freedom often center on attempts to influence the actions of nations and political leaders. Politically elected or appointed authorities are frequently urged to recognize international law and maximize the freedom of every religious believer or group in their territories. The leaders of churches, synagogues, and mosques, however, are seldom reminded of the parameters of international law. This is not an oversight; one of the basic assumptions in international law is that the actions of private parties are not under its jurisdiction. In this paradigm, only nations, never individuals, can claim violations of international...

  9. VII The Rights of Dissenters
    (pp. 113-133)

    Throughout history, the status granted to persons who do not have or do not profess religious faith has seldom been very favorable. The presence of believers has always been intensive and extensive, and persons who do not share the beliefs of the majority have frequently been persecuted. Romans faithful to their pantheon were intolerant of Christians; Catholics and Protestants, when they have been in charge of societies, have nearly always been intolerant of persons who disagreed with them.

    The instinct of both governments and religious organizations to make themselves the exclusive force in society is equally prevalent in the Islamic...

  10. VIII Religious Freedom and Issues of Gender and Sexuality
    (pp. 134-150)

    Violations of religious freedom affect individuals, families, and communities. However, this refusal to abide by international law has a particular impact on the rights of two distinct groups who have only recently begun to share in the universal promise of equality: women and homosexuals.

    The emergence of the feminist movement since the 1960s has coincided with the development of international human rights. Women have benefited enormously in claiming the equality that international law confirms is rightfully theirs, but their progress has been slowed by the pervasiveness of the institutions that have subordinated women for centuries. Indeed, the repression of women...

  11. IX When Governments Repress and Persecute Religion
    (pp. 151-164)

    Some nations embrace religious pluralism and allow nearly unrestricted speech by religious groups or organizations of conscience. In the United States, for example, the peace community would complain that they had been gagged if the government pressured them to cease their vigorous claims that the government is excessively belligerent and warlike. Organizations such as Pax Christi, a near pacifist group made up predominantly of Catholics, would clearly claim an infringement of their religious freedom if the U.S. government sought to discredit their views and disallow their activities. This domestic religious liberty, however, stems largely from provisions in the U.S. Constitution...

  12. X The People’s Republic of China and Religious Freedom
    (pp. 165-180)

    It may not be helpful to say that one particular country has the worst record on religious freedom in the world. If we undertook to assign that label, however, and possibly overlooked Sudan, the People’s Republic of China would have an almost unchallenged claim to that distinction. Year after year the U.S. State Department’s Report on Human Rights declares China’s unremitting hostility to Christians and other religious groups.

    It is distressing that China so openly rejects the right to the free exercise of religion, so clearly a part of customary international law. That vast nation, with some 20 percent of...

  13. XI Religious Freedom and the Muslim World
    (pp. 181-190)

    As one looks at the vast literature and the arcane controversies about the past and present teachings of Islam, one has to wonder if any worldwide juridical authority could define and apply international principles of religious freedom to the Muslim world; or, more pointedly, if the rulings of such a tribunal could ever win acceptance in the world of Islam—some fifty nations and 1.2 billion adherents.

    One of several complicating factors is the virtual inseparability of Islam and the culture that is both its cause and its effect. The Shari’a, or Islamic code of law, is derived not merely...

  14. XII The World’s Jewish Community and Religious Freedom
    (pp. 191-211)

    It would be unthinkable to consider the right to religious freedom without reflecting on the perennial denial of that right to the Jewish people. We may hope that the surge in the defense of international human rights ongoing since the creation of the United Nations will usher in an age that finally brings some religious liberty to the Jewish people. This would only be just, as it is self-evident that the birth of the international recognition of human rights is due in important ways to the 6 million who died in the Holocaust.

    In a real sense, the world’s attempt...

  15. XIII Questions of God and Caesar
    (pp. 212-246)

    Of the many questions raised in a discussion of an international right to conscience, three are of lasting interest and importance: Can there be a world law regulating religious freedom at all? If so, should the right to religious freedom trump other rights? Finally, one must ask the question that spans the entire topic, affecting every part of it: Can Caesar and God ever truly coexist in peace?

    It is disconcerting to realize that there is hardly even a vocabulary with which to talk about the relationship of religion and the state. The words of Christ directing that the things...

  16. Appendix A. United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981)
    (pp. 247-252)
  17. Appendix B. Vatican II Statement on the Jews
    (pp. 253-254)
  18. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 255-256)
  19. Index
    (pp. 257-266)