ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

How to Assess the Liberal Legitimacy of Established Religion

Political Theory
Religion
Liberalism
Sune Lægaard
University of Roskilde
Sune Lægaard
University of Roskilde

Abstract

Liberalism has traditionally been associated with the view that church and state, as well as politics and religion more generally, should be separated. Recent works on the liberal political philosophy of religion has, however, qualified and even challenged this orthodox understanding. A prominent example of this is Cécile Laborde’s Liberalism’s Religion (2017). Laborde argues for a disaggregation approach according to which religion is not special as such but can be disaggregated into several different more general categories, each of which trigger different liberal values. According to Laborde’s minimal secularism, church and state should be separated when an established church violates a liberal constraint against excluding social groups from full citizenship, but not if establishment is not exclusionary. This view resonates with ordinary concerns about established religion, according to which the problem with state support for or endorsement of a specific church or religion has to do with the message this sends about minority religious groups. The question, however, is exactly how the requirement of civic inclusiveness and the corresponding constraint against exclusion should be understood and operationalized in practice. Several suggestions have been formulated in the literature. Some theorists focus on subjective feelings of alienation among minority religious groups. Other theorists focus on the objective message sent by establishment. The paper considers different ways of specifying this criterion of exclusion in a minimal secularist theory and points to a number of problems with both the standard subjective and objective proposals. On this basis, the paper considers possible alternative specifications which both avoid the problems with subjective accounts and objective symbolic equality accounts.