This book examines the existing constitutional and legal system in England, Wales and Scotland, through the prism of its treatment of religion and belief. The study encompasses questions of Church/state relations, but pushes far beyond these. It asks whether the approach to religion which has spread out from establishment to permeate the whole legal framework is a cause of concern or celebration in relation to individual and collective freedoms.
The primary focus of the work is the synergy between the religious dimension of the juridical system and the fundamental pillars of the Constitution (parliamentary sovereignty, the rule of law, separation of powers and human rights). Javier García Oliva and Helen Hall challenge the view that separation between public and religious authorities is the most conducive means of nurturing a free and democratic society in modern Britain.
The authors explore whether, counter-intuitively for some, the religious dynamic to the legal system actually operates to safeguard liberties, and has a role in generating an inclusive and adaptable backdrop for our collective life. They suggest that the present paradigm brings benefits for citizens of all shades of religious belief and opinion (including Atheist and Humanist perspectives), as well as secondary advantages for those with profound beliefs on non-religious matters, such as pacifism and veganism. In support of their contentions, García Oliva and Hall examine how the religious dimension of the legal framework operates to further essential constitutional principles in diverse settings, ranging from criminal to family law.
In a groundbreaking move, the authors also set the legal discussion alongside its social and cultural context. They consider how the theological perspectives of the larger faith traditions might influence members’ ideas around the key constitutional precepts, and they include extracts from interviews which give the personal perspective of more than 100 individuals on contemporary issues of law and religious freedom. These voices are drawn from a range of fields and positions on faith. While the authors are at pains to stress that these sections do not support or advance their legal or theological conclusions, they do provide readers with a human backdrop to the discussion, and demonstrate its crucial importance in twenty-first century Britain.
1. Church/state relations and their historical evolution: whale knees or penguin wings?
2. Religion in the current paradigm: the flight of the penguin?
3. Non-religious beliefs in the current paradigm
4. The rule of law and the religious character of the Constitution and the wider legal framework
5. Parliamentary supremacy and the religious character of the Constitution and the wider legal framework
6. Checks and balances, separation of powers and the religious character of the Constitution and the wider legal framework
7. Human rights and the religious character of the Constitution and the wider legal framework
The practice of religion by individuals and groups, the rise of religious diversity, and the fear of religious extremism, raise profound questions for the interaction between law and religion in society. The regulatory systems involved, the religion laws of secular government (national and international) and the religious laws of faith communities, are valuable tools for our understanding of the dynamics of mutual accommodation and the analysis and resolution of issues in such areas as: religious freedom; discrimination; the autonomy of religious organisations; doctrine, worship and religious symbols; the property and finances of religion; religion, education and public institutions; and religion, marriage and children. In this series, scholars at the forefront of law and religion contribute to the debates in this area. The books in the series are analytical with a key target audience of scholars and practitioners, including lawyers, religious leaders, and others with an interest in this rapidly developing discipline.
Professor Norman Doe is Director of the Centre for Law and Religion, which he set up at Cardiff Law School in 1998.
Carmen Asiaín is a Law Professor at University of Montevideo (Uruguay).
Paul Babie is Professor and Associate Dean (International), Adelaide Law School.
Pieter Coertzen is the chairperson of the Unit for the Study of Law and Religion in the Beyers Naudé Center for Public Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Stellenbosch.
Alison Mawhinney is a Reader in Law at Bangor University.
Michael John Perry is a Senior Fellow at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion and has held a Robert W. Woodruff University Chair there since 2003.