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Legal Monism and Religious Pluralism: Rowan Williams on Religion, Loyalty and Law

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image of International Journal of Public Theology

Archbishop Rowan Williams' lecture on ‘Civil and Religious Law in England’ in February 2008 provoked passionate critical responses, not only in Britain but around the world. While acknowledging ambiguities in the text of the lecture, this article seeks to clarify its central claims and to address some of the misrepresentations to which it was subjected. It defends the lecture as a constructive and profound theological contribution to the ongoing discussion about the proper scope and manner of the legal accommodation of religious minorities within liberal democratic states. It then probes further into the wider question raised by the lecture concerning the dilemma of the plural identities and loyalties of religious citizens in such states. The Archbishop's subtle critique of ‘unqualified secular legal monopoly’ can be heard to contain a timely warning against political hubris.

Affiliations: 1: Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, Cambridge, UK


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