SECULARISM AND FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE

SECULARISM AND FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE

JOCELYN MACLURE
CHARLES TAYLOR
Translated by Jane Marie Todd
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 160
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jbrc0
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  • Book Info
    SECULARISM AND FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
    Book Description:

    Jocelyn Maclure and Charles Taylor provide a clearly reasoned, articulate account of the two main principles of secularism—equal respect, and freedom of conscience—and argue that in our religiously diverse, politically interconnected world, secularism, properly understood, may offer the only path to religious and philosophical freedom.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06295-5
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. INTRODUCTION: Secularism Today
    (pp. 1-6)

    One of the most important challenges facing contemporary societies is how to manage moral and religious diversity. The question of “reasonable accommodations” has stirred passions in Quebec since 2006. It goes without saying that that corner of the country is not alone in its obligation to take up such a challenge. Canada as a whole has been grappling with sensitive issues, such as private arbitration based on the Sharia in matters of family law and the legal status of polygamous marriages. Elsewhere in the world, France has weathered its headscarf crises, and, more recently, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s defense of “positive...

  4. PART 1 SECULARISM
    • 1 MORAL PLURALISM, NEUTRALITY, AND SECULARISM
      (pp. 9-18)

      The relationship between political power and religions in modern liberal democracies is complex and varied. Such democracies, even those that continue to recognize an official church—often in a mostly symbolic capacity—live under what can be called a “regime of secularism.” In a society that is both egalitarian and diverse, the state must be separate from the churches, and political power must be neutral toward religions. The establishment of a strong organic link between the state and one religion, as in the tradition of Christendom, would make members of other religions and of those professing no religion into second-class...

    • 2 THE PRINCIPLES OF SECULARISM
      (pp. 19-26)

      Secularism, then, must be understood within the context of the more general ideal of neutrality, to which the state must aspire if it wishes to treat citizens fairly. It is one of the modalities of the system of governance allowing democratic and liberal states to grant equal respect to individuals with different worldviews and sets of values. But what, more precisely, is secularism? That notion cannot be grasped through simple formulations such as “separation of church and state,” “the neutrality of the state toward religions,” or the “privatization of religion,” though all these formulations contain a share of truth. Rather,...

    • 3 REGIMES OF SECULARISM
      (pp. 27-35)

      The world’s secular political regimes are generally categorized in terms of the relationship they maintain with religious practice. It will be said, for example, that the secularism is “rigid” or “strict” or, rather, more “flexible” and “open,” depending on how dilemmas are resolved when the principles and operative modes of secularism enter into conflict with one another. A more rigid form of secularism allows greater restriction on the free exercise of religion, in the name of a certain understanding of the state’s neutrality and of the separation of political and religious powers. Conversely, an “open” secularism defends a model centered...

    • 4 PUBLIC SPHERE AND PRIVATE SPHERE
      (pp. 36-40)

      The champions of a republican conception of secularism generally defend the position that the exercise of religion must be contained within the limits of the private sphere. Although all individuals have the right to live according to their conscience in their private lives, the public sphere must be exempt from any manifestation of faith. That imperative is viewed as proceeding logically and necessarily from the separation of church and state. Yet an examination of that distinction between the public and the private, frequently presented as a clear response to the issues related to managing religious diversity, reveals a complexity that...

    • 5 RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS AND RITUALS IN THE PUBLIC SPACE
      (pp. 41-52)

      We believe, then, that a theory that more clearly distinguishes the moral principles grounding political secularism from the institutional arrangements that realize these principles is necessary from a conceptual point of view. The gain resulting from the theorization we have proposed is not of a strictly epistemic nature, however: it also has a normative dimension. Distinguishing between the types of principles constitutive of secularism will allow us to recognize that certain policies have the effect of diverting us from the realization of the ends toward a defense of the means. In addition, the aim of a liberal and pluralist conception...

    • 6 LIBERAL-PLURALIST SECULARISM: The Case of Quebec
      (pp. 53-60)

      The discussion of “models” of secularism and their underlying principles should not lose sight of the fact that concrete experiences of secularism are always colored by history and context, by the web of facts and meanings specific to each society. In that sense there is no pure model of secularism: attempts to reconcile citizens’ moral equality and their freedom of conscience will always vary with the specific context. That is why no two regimes of secularism regulate in the same way all the dilemmas that arise from managing religious diversity. Thus far our views have been primarily theoretical; we now...

  5. PART 2 FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
    • [PART 2 Introduction]
      (pp. 61-64)

      The diversity of beliefs and values that has taken root as one of the structuring features of contemporary societies often produces ethical and political disagreements that erode the social bond to varying degrees. One of the questions that divides citizens is the legitimacy of measures of accommodation whose aim is to allow certain people to respect beliefs at odds with those of the majority. These requests for accommodation often have the goal of allowing the free exercise of religion. Consider, for example, a civil servant who asks for a derogation of a regulation governing employees’ manner of dress so that...

    • 7 THE LEGAL OBLIGATION FOR REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION
      (pp. 65-68)

      The freedom of religion protected by national and international legal instruments includes not only the freedom to hold religious beliefs but also to manifest one’s religious affiliation through worship, rites, and the spreading of the faith. Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights delineates the dimensions of freedom of religion as follows: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to...

    • 8 ARE RELIGIOUS BELIEFS “EXPENSIVE TASTES”? Choices, Circumstances, and Individual Responsibility
      (pp. 69-80)

      The legitimacy of requests for accommodation on religious grounds is not unanimously accepted. The validity of an accommodation measure allowing a schoolgirl, for example, to wear a hijab to school is not apparent to everyone. Yet similar derogations may be granted for reasons of health, as when a girl must cover her head under orders from her doctor. No one would dream of opposing such an exception. Accommodations designed to ensure the equality of disabled persons or pregnant women are widely accepted. Public opinion is therefore much more suspicious of requests motivated by religious belief.

      One of the arguments most...

    • 9 THE SUBJECTIVE CONCEPTION OF FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE INDIVIDUALIZATION OF BELIEF
      (pp. 81-84)

      The special legal status of religious beliefs is derived from the role they play in people’s moral lives rather than from an assessment of their intrinsic validity. A liberal and democratic state acknowledges the limits of practical reason with respect to the question of the meaning and ultimate aims of existence. It is up to individuals, perceived as moral agents capable of providing themselves with a conception of the good, to position themselves in relation to the different understandings of the world and of the meaning of human life. The “personal or subjective” conception of freedom of religion adopted by...

    • 10 DOES THE LEGAL OBLIGATION FOR ACCOMMODATION FAVOR RELIGION? Religious and Secular Convictions of Conscience
      (pp. 85-99)

      A frequently formulated criticism of the obligation for accommodation based on freedom of religion is that it favors religious conceptions of the good life over secular ones. Why, for example, should the work schedule of a Seventh-Day Adventist employee be adjusted so that she never has to work on Saturday (her Sabbath), whereas her colleague, who would like to pursue professional training or take piano lessons that are offered only on Saturday, or spend time with his aging mother, still has to work on that day or risk losing his job? Does that not amount to favoring religious conceptions of...

    • 11 THE REASONABLE LIMITS TO FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
      (pp. 100-104)

      Broadening the category of meaning-giving beliefs and commitments by integrating into it values not derived from a complete philosophical or religious system may seem to open the door to a potentially excessive number of accommodations and to their instrumentalization. But showing deference to the agent’s sovereignty over his choices of conscience does not make it impossible to limit requests for accommodation. The courts must evaluate not only the sincerity of the belief but also the foreseeable effects of the requested accommodation on the rights of others and on the institution’s ability to realize its aims. Here we enter the realm...

  6. CONCLUSION: The Future of Secularism
    (pp. 105-110)

    The evolution of contemporary democratic societies suggests that it is time to reconceptualize the meaning and ends of secularism. From the age of Saint Augustine to the modern period, the relationship between temporal and spiritual power was foremost, but the challenges of the present era are of a different nature. Although it is generally assumed that the aim of a regime of secularism is still to find the appropriate relationship between the state and religions, its broader and more urgent task at present is to make it possible for democratic states to adapt adequately to the profound moral and spiritual...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 111-134)
  8. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 135-136)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 137-142)