Courses: A Model Syllabus for a Class on the Politics of Religious Freedom

Course Description

Despite formal guarantees entrenched in modern international conventions and national constitutions, religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities have emerged as contentious and charged issues in human rights law, politics and praxis. There are multiple reasons for this, including the increased salience of religious identity in the world, and the intellectual and political resistance posed to secularist assumptions about human flourishing by a variety of social movements. While the larger consequences of such developments are unknown, what is clear is that the right to religious freedom has become a key site of legal and political struggles to negotiate individual and communal relations across lines of religious difference.

This course provides a critical introduction to questions of freedom, religion, community and the individual as they are today being contested in normative and legal discourses on the right to religious freedom. After considering the basic nature, scope and history of the right to religious liberty in the UN and European human rights regimes, the course will focus on:

  1. the case law of the European Court of Human Rights since 2000 involving claims by religious individuals and communities (both majorities and minorities) — key among them claims to religious freedom by European Muslims — and the ways in which this jurisprudence is being challenged and unsettled by a variety of actors both inside and outside the Court;
  2. the legal and political salience of minority/majority frameworks and the protection accorded to religious minorities in a democracy;
  3. the relationship between secularism, religion and the state and different models of religion-state relations;
  4. and what religion is imagined to be in struggles over religious liberty.

Course Materials: “Religious Freedom and the Rights of Religious Minorities”

Course taught at Venice School of Human Rights, July 2011