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Governing the Sacred: Models of Political Toleration at Contested Sacred Sites

Political Theory
Religion
Ethics
Normative Theory
Nahshon Perez
Bar Ilan University
Yuval Jobani
Tel Aviv University
Nahshon Perez
Bar Ilan University

Abstract

Contested sacred sites pose an overlooked challenge for theorists of political toleration. Holy sites are often at the center of contestation between different groups regarding ownership, access, usage rights, permissible religious conduct. Two questions are posed, first, how to conceptualize ‘contested sacred sites’? Second, what are the historical-political arrangements used to govern such contested sacred sites, that can be adopted by democratic countries? This article, first, suggests a conceptualization of contested sacred sites as ‘thick sites’ a la Geertz. Second, describes and analyzes five models of governing contested sacred sites: ‘non-interference’, ‘separation and division’, ‘preference’, ‘status-quo’, and ‘closure’. Each model is grounded in historical-political examples and relies on different normative considerations. The goal is to present a new typology of governing methods that can be adopted by democratic governments in their attempt to secure public order and mutual toleration among opposed groups in contested sacred sites.