Religious Symbols and the Intervention of the Law: Symbolic Functionality in Pluralist States, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Religious Symbols and the Intervention of the Law

Symbolic Functionality in Pluralist States, 1st Edition

By Sylvie Bacquet


216 pages

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Hardback: 9781138953833
pub: 2019-06-24
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In contemporary pluralist states, where faith communities live together, different religious symbols and practices have to coexist. This may lead to conflicts between certain minority practices and the dominant majority, particularly around the manifestation of belief in the public domain which may be seen both by the religious and secular majorities as a threat to their cultural heritage or against the secular values of the host country. The law has to mitigate those tensions in order to protect the public from harm and preserve order but in doing so, it may where necessary have to limit citizens’ ability to freely manifest their religion. It is those limitations that have been disputed in the courts on grounds of freedom of religion and belief. Religious symbols are often at the heart of legal battles, with courts called upon to consider the lawfulness of banning or restricting certain symbols or practices.

This book analyses the relationship between the state, individuals and religious symbols, considering the three main forms of religious expression, symbols that believers wear on their body, symbols in the public space such as religious edifices and rituals that believers perform as a manifestation of their faith. The book looks comparatively at legal responses in England, the U.S.A and France comparing different approaches to the issues of symbols in the public sphere and their interaction with the law. The book considers religious manifestation as a social phenomenon taking a multidisciplinary approach to the question mixing elements of the anthropology, history and sociology of religion in order to provide some context and examine how this could help inform the law. 

Table of Contents

Foreword by Santiago Canamares

Part I: Religious Symbols in a Socio-Historical Context

1 Introduction

2 A multidisciplinary approach to the definition of religious manifestation

3 Historical origin and significance of religious symbols

4 Religious symbols and identity in contemporary pluralist states

Part II: Religious Symbols and the Law in 21st Century Pluralist States: country approaches

5 France and Laïcité

6 England and the Established Church

7.The United States and Tolerant Neutrality

Part III: The Future of Religious Symbols and The Law in 21st Century Pluralist States

8 Accommodation of Minorities and the Limitations of Pluralist States

9 Conclusion

About the Author

Sylvie Bacquet is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Westminster, UK.

About the Series

Law and Religion

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.

Series Editor

Professor Norman Doe is Director of the Centre for Law and Religion, which he set up at Cardiff Law School in 1998.

Editorial Board

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.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Comparative
RELIGION / Religion, Politics & State