Tolerating Religious ‘Others’
Some Thoughts on Secular Neutrality and Religious Tolerance in Australia
Keywords:law, tolerance, religion, secularism, neutrality, multiculturalism
AbstractIn this paper, I examine the assumptions that underpin secular neutrality and how they might block government attention to religious inequality and obscure occurrences of religious discrimination in society. A secular state’s neutrality is underpinned by the idea that religious belief is a private and individual choice. As such, the legal maintenance of a state’s neutrality results in the scrutiny of religion as an individual practice. As well as concealing the institutional privileging of certain religions by secular states, the privatisation and individualisation of religious beliefs bought about by secular neutrality has implications for the ways in which the state deals with religious discrimination. I argue that rather than fostering a climate of religious tolerance, a state’s neutrality can mask religious inequality and potentially prohibit a state from addressing this inequality in the name of neutrality.
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