"Justifying the Secular State: Trans-Atlantic Lessons on the Weakness of Rights as a Basis for Secularism"

Joint Seminar Series 2015/16 "Diversity and Human Rights"

  • Date: Apr 22, 2016
  • Time: 14:00 - 16:00
  • Speaker: Ronan McCrea (University College London)
  • Ronan McCrea is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at the Faculty of Laws in University College London where he lectures on European law, constitutional law and the relationship between law and religion. He is the author of Religion and the Public Order of the European Union (OUP 2010) and Religion et l’ordre juridique de l’Union europeenne (Bruylant 2013). He is a former Referendaire in the Chambers of Advocate General Maduro at the Court of Justice of the European Union and a member of the Bars of England and Wales and the Republic of Ireland.
  • Location: Lichtenberg-Kolleg Historic Observatory, Geismar Landstraße 11, 37083 Göttingen
  • Room: Roter Saal
"Justifying the Secular State: Trans-Atlantic Lessons on the Weakness of Rights as a Basis for Secularism"
Organizers: Matthias Koenig (University of Göttingen) & Ayelet Shachar (MPI)


For more details please contact recke(at)mmg.mpg.de.

In this presentation, Ronan McCrea will compare the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the US Supreme Court to show the weakness of rights-based justifications such as those suggested by Sager and Eisgruber, Dworkin and Nussbaum, for the strict religious neutrality of the state. Justifying secularism in rights terms is likely to lead to minimialist forms of secularism and risks drawing courts into problematic assessments of the compatibility of the beliefs of particular faiths with liberal democracy. He closes by suggesting that rights-based litigation is a problematic vehicle through which to regulate the relationship between religion, the law and the state as fundamental rights cannot do justice either to the reasons in favour of strict separation of religion and state or to the richness of religious experience.

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