Religion in Public Spaces: A European Perspective

Religion in Public Spaces: A European Perspective

Religion in Public Spaces: A European Perspective

Religion in Public Spaces: A European Perspective


This timely volume discusses the much debated and controversial subject of the presence of religion in the public sphere. The book is divided in three sections. In the first the public/private distinction is studied mainly from a theoretical point of view, through the contributions of lawyers, philosophers and sociologists. In the following sections their proposals are tested through the analysis of two case studies, religious dress codes and places of worship. These sections include discussions on some of the most controversial recent cases from around Europe with contributions from some of the leading experts in the area of law and religion. Covering a range of very different European countries including Turkey, the UK, Italy and Bulgaria, the book uses comparative case studies to illustrate how practice varies significantly even within Europe. It reveals how familiarization with religious and philosophical diversity in Europe should lead to the modification of legal frameworks historically designed to accommodate majority religions. This in turn should give rise to recognition of new groups and communities and eventually, a more adequate response to the plurality of religions and beliefs in European society.


The demographic and cultural profile of European societies today is highly dynamic and in constant change. These changes are inextricably linked, at least in part, to the many and complex effects of globalization, including the blending of cultures; they also reflect increasing diversification as well as an individualization of lifestyles and modes of thought.

As a result of these changes, long-standing ways of managing the social fabric are breaking down, and the question inevitably arises as to how to ensure that relations among groups and individuals within a social context that is in constant flux remain fair and equitable and respectful of individual freedoms and civic duties. At the heart of the debate are the controversies between ‘liberals’ and ‘communitarians’ regarding the meaning, the scope as well as the limits of the role of public authorities in the face of identity issues, that is, religious diversity, different moral sensibilities and cultures that wish to preserve their particular identity. in Europe today, it is most specifically religious identity and its public expression that appears at the core of the debate. Questions concerning religion are invariably associated either with the challenge of multiculturalism or with the migratory flows of the past few decades, thereby rendering the topic a politically sensitive one.

When, in 2009, the European Commission published a call for proposals for research projects on the theme of religious pluralism under the Seventh Framework Programme (Socio-Economic Sciences & Humanities: SSH-2009. Activity, this is the issue to which it referred. the initiative of this volume is linked partly to that call, since it consists of the proceedings of a colloquium held in October 2010 in Como, Italy, within the framework of the research project that had been chosen by the Commission. This research project is known as ‘RELIGARE’ (‘Religious Diversity and Secular Models in Europe. Innovative

1 See especially W. Brugger and M. Karayanni (eds), Religion in the Public Sphere: a Comparative Analysis of German, Israeli, American and International Law, Heidelberg; Springer, 2007; M.D. Evans, Manual on the Wearing of Religious Symbols in Public Areas, Strasbourg: Council of Europe Editions, 2009; N. Hosen and R. Mohr (eds), Law and Religion in Public Life: the Contemporary Debate, London: Routledge, 2010, J.-P. Willaime, Le retour du religieux dans la sphère publique, Lyon: Olivétan, 2008.

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