Religious Liberty in Transitional Societies: The Politics of Religion

By John Anderson | Go to book overview

5
Justifying religious ‘recognition’ and/or discrimination
In all of the transitional societies we have examined so far there have been wide-ranging debates over the place of religion, though in some countries the issue has enjoyed a greater political salience than others. In these discussions different actors have put forward a variety of arguments to justify granting some churches formal ‘recognition’ in the new polities, or to defend legal discrimination against religious minorities. The emphasis of the individuals and institutions involved in this discussion vary according to their ideological and institutional needs, but a number of broad types or families of argument are evident from a reading of the available sources. These include suggestions that the dominant church:
is the religious community of the people, of the majority, or of the nation, and thus deserves some formal ‘recognition’;
has the right to exercise some form of’moral guardianship’, and requires the state to provide some form of protection from unfair competition;
all this is reinforced by a general need in transitional societies for order and stability in the face of uncertainty, and this requires regulation of inappropriate or divisive religious activity;
and in any case, why should our country slavishly follow models of church-state relations developed elsewhere that reflect different cultural and religious contexts, and that have the potential to undermine the process of national rebuilding currently being undertaken?

Not all of these arguments play with the same force in every country and, as we shall note in the next section, it is by no means always the case that the justification of ‘recognition’ and/or discrimination comes primarily from the traditionally dominant religious institutions.


The actors

In most of the societies we are dealing with the pressure for legal privilege, control or restriction has come from a variety of sources, most obviously from the traditionally dominant religious community. Prominent religious

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