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Full Access Belief and/in the Law

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Belief and/in the Law

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

Abstract This article examines how ‘belief’ has emerged as the privileged site of religion in human rights law, rendering some forms of ethical life unintelligible to secular-modern law and politics. I first analyze models of ethical personhood in which actions like veiling or praying do not only signify piety but are also integral to achieving it. I next turn to tracing how the 2004 French ban on headscarves in public schools was seen as a non-violation of religious liberty, examining the particular relationship between interiority and exteriority, mind and body, and belief and practice that underlay arguments for the ban. I then show how these distinctions produce another distinction between conscience and its manifestation, one that is institutionalized in secular legal conventions that make the freedom to believe unalienable but the freedom to manifest that belief alienable. Finally, I examine the paradox of legislating the inviolability of the freedom to believe.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064 University of California Santa Cruz USA mfernan3@ucsc.edu

10.1163/157006812X634520
/content/journals/10.1163/157006812x634520
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Abstract This article examines how ‘belief’ has emerged as the privileged site of religion in human rights law, rendering some forms of ethical life unintelligible to secular-modern law and politics. I first analyze models of ethical personhood in which actions like veiling or praying do not only signify piety but are also integral to achieving it. I next turn to tracing how the 2004 French ban on headscarves in public schools was seen as a non-violation of religious liberty, examining the particular relationship between interiority and exteriority, mind and body, and belief and practice that underlay arguments for the ban. I then show how these distinctions produce another distinction between conscience and its manifestation, one that is institutionalized in secular legal conventions that make the freedom to believe unalienable but the freedom to manifest that belief alienable. Finally, I examine the paradox of legislating the inviolability of the freedom to believe.

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1. Anidjar Gil "The idea of an anthropology of Christianity" Interventions 2009 Vol 11 3 367 393 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13698010903255718
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15. Masuzawa Tomoko The Invention of World Religions 2005 Chicago University of Chicago Press http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226922621.001.0001
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19. Taylor Charles A Secular Age 2007 Cambridge, MA Belknap Press
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2012-01-01
2016-12-03

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