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The Neutral State: Optional or Necessary?: A Triangular Analysis of State–Religion Relationships, Democratisation and Human Rights Compliance

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This article suggests a signicant correlation between the notions of state neutrality and religious freedom. The absence of a considerable degree of state neutrality has a detrimental effect on human rights compliance. Under states which identify themselves strongly with a single religious denomination as well as under states which identify themselves negatively in relation to religion, there is no scope for human rights compliance. Both extreme types of state–religion identication are characterised by repression of all beliefs and manifestations thereof which do not correspond with the state sanctioned view on belief. This may be either the upholding of a specic religious denomination or of militant ideological secularism. Consequently, discrimination and marginalisation rather than compliance with the norms of freedom of religion and the promotion of non-discrimination comprise policy and practice under these regimes. Intermediate forms of state–religion afliation, i.e. types of identication in which the state is not drenched with the excluding ideals of a single denomination or with anti-religious sentiments, allow for a degree of democratic inclusion of religious difference and of religious tolerance. The most substantial scope for full compliance, however, lies in the combination of democratic inclusion of people from different religions and the indispensable political commitment characterised as state neutrality with respect to all people. State neutrality refers to a regime of state–religion identi cation that can best be understood as 'accommodative non-partisanship'.

Affiliations: 1: Erasmus University Rotterdam (Netherlands)


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