Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction

By John Witte Jr.; M. Christian Green | Go to book overview

22
Patterns of Religion State
Relations

W. COLE DURHAM, JR.

The configurations of religion-state relations across the world’s legal systems are remarkably diverse, reflecting differences of history, philosophy, religious demography, culture, constitutional and political systems, and numerous other factors. Moreover, religion-state relations in every country are in constant flux. Sometimes these relationships change dramatically, as in the aftermath of the collapse of Soviet communism. More frequently, they undergo steady, minor adjustments as a result of legislation or case law affecting countless aspects of religious life. Yet broad patterns or types of relationships are discernible, and the nature of these relationships can have significant implications for more general human rights implementation.1 This chapter draws on a typology developed in earlier work,2 but seeks to expand and deepen comparative analysis of the religion-state relationships involved.


A COMPARATIVE FRAMEWORK FOR
CONCEPTUALIZING

The nature of religion-state relations in a particular society may be assessed in terms of two continua: one involving the extent to which state action (or inaction) results in interference with religious belief and conduct (the religious freedom continuum), and another involving the extent to which governmental institutions are identified with (or separated from) religious institutions and beliefs (the identification continuum). The religious freedom continuum extends from zero to full religious freedom; the identification continuum extends from full identification of religion and state (positive identification), through various modes of separation, and continuing on to active persecution of religion (negative identification). All states oscillate within some range on each of the two continua).

Initially, there is a tendency to assume there is a straight line inverse correlation between the two continua. That is, as identification of religion and state goes up, religious liberty goes down. While this correlation appears to hold in some cases (e.g., United States and France), there are many cases where it clearly does not. Norway, Finland, and the United Kingdom have high identification with their established churches, and yet have high degrees of religious freedom, whereas countries such as Soviet Russia had low identification with religion matched with low degrees of religious freedom. The seeming lack of correlation is puzzling, because a primary aim of constitutional provisions in this sphere is to assure institutional

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