Institutionalizing rights and religion: Introduction

Leora Batnitzky, Hanoch Dagan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript


THE TASK Freedom of religion is a core human right, and a very complicated one. Its status as a core human right derives to some extent from its critical role in the historical development of human rights as we know them. But it is also a core human right thanks to its crucial significance to people's identity, which is revealed, in part, by its affinity with two other identitarian rights: the right to conscience and the right to culture. This connection raises difficult conceptual and normative questions concerning the value added (if any) of freedom of religion vis-à-vis these two rights and the putative justifications of freedom of religion. This book does not address these questions directly, but it is triggered by the complex cohabitation of these two aspects of the freedom of religion – by the way religion presents an intertwined individual and communal engagement. Accordingly, our point of departure is freedom of religion's peculiar characterization as both deeply personal and essentially communal, and thus (at least typically) a highly institutionalized human right. The task of Institutionalizing Rights and Religion is to highlight the institutional challenges that are uniquely complex in the context of freedom of religion. We seek to shift the usual scholarly focus from the personal free expression of religion, to considering the significance of institutional design. Indeed, we believe that in order to understand freedom of religion, we must study how religions are structured as normative institutions and how state law regulates the way religious organizations are constituted and how they are able to function in a pluralistic society. Our goal in this book, more specifically, is to highlight the significance of the institutional design of both religions and political regimes with respect to the relationship between religious practice and activity, and human rights. In the contemporary world, religious conviction, individual freedom, and institutional authority intersect in complex and volatile ways. Religiously motivated persons and organizations are sometimes among the most effective agents for securing human rights. But at other times and on other occasions, religion is the animating force behind terrifying and persistent threats to the rights of individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInstitutionalizing Rights and Religion
Subtitle of host publicationCompeting Supremacies
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781316599969
ISBN (Print)9781107153714
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


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