Political religion vs non-establishment: Reflections on 21st-century political theology: Part 2

Philosophy and Social Criticism 39 (6):507-521 (2013)
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Abstract

This article defends the principle of non-establishment against 21st-century projects of political religion, constitutional theocracy and political theology. It is divided into two parts. The first part, published in special issue 39.4–5 of Philosophy and Social Criticism, proceeds by constructing an ideal type of political secularism, and then discussing the innovative American model of constitutional dualism regarding religion that combined constitutional protection for the freedom of religious conscience and exercise with the principle of non-establishment. It then critically assesses the integrationist approach –disguised as a concern for pluralism and fairness – as an alternative to this framework. The integrationist approach challenges ‘separation’ and political secularism in a subtle attack on the non-establishment principle, aimed at drastically narrowing its scope. Successes of this approach in recent Supreme Court jurisprudence and politics, have triggered a response by liberal egalitarians. I address this response – the equal liberty model – in this second part, arguing that although on the right track, it fails to find a middle ground between political secularism and integration. Instead, by abandoning the discourse of separation, it plays into populist integrationist hands without delivering on the promise of providing a coherent standard for deciding cases. The article proposes a third approach, one that does not throw out the non-establishment baby with the strict separationist bathwater and that wholeheartedly endorses political secularism, a sine qua non for 21st-century constitutional democracy. Equal liberty properly construed can help provide criteria for determining when an accommodation, a regulation or no regulation of religion by the state is appropriate. But it must be supplemented by other values – democratic and civil republican. The article concludes with a typology of the forms of regulation that are warranted under the conditions of the contemporary regulatory state, now the target and prize of politicized religion

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