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Understanding Human Dignity$
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Christopher McCrudden

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265642

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265642.001.0001

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Justifying Freedom of Religion: Does ‘Dignity’ Help?

Justifying Freedom of Religion: Does ‘Dignity’ Help?

(p.405) 23 Justifying Freedom of Religion: Does ‘Dignity’ Help?
Understanding Human Dignity

Julian Rivers

British Academy

Underlying the practice of the protection of freedom of religion in constitutional and human rights law is a debate about the justifications for such protection. Many of the arguments which have been offered during the emergence of the liberal democratic tradition from the seventeenth century onwards are instrumental or theological in nature. By contrast, modern justifications tend to be ‘dignitarian’ in character—non-instrumental and non-theological. Yet they struggle to identify religion as a sufficiently broad liberty-grounding good, or they dissolve freedom of religion into other rights of conscience, expression and association. In general, such dignitarian justifications fail to ground the practice of legally protected religious liberty in liberal democratic political traditions. One fundamental reason for this may lie in the anti-religious tendency of an emerging postmodern conception of human dignity.

Keywords:   religious liberty, dignity, conscience, ethical independence, autonomy, rights

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