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Who Is Afraid of Religious Freedom? The Right to Freedom of Religion and Belief and Its Critics

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This article answers the claim that it is impossible to implement the right to religious freedom in a coherent, non-discriminatory way. It relies on the notions of “embedded evenhandedness” and “particular universalities” to build a two-pronged approach to freedom of religion. On the one hand, this approach accepts that history and culture provide the particular framework within which the right of freedom of religion is embedded. On the other, it recognizes that the claim of evenhandedness that is inbuilt in this right can overcome the limitations of a specific context and open it to new ways to understand and implement the right itself. This tension between the universal dimension of the right to freedom of religion and its particular implementations allows affirming the possibility of religious freedoms, whose different manifestations are better protected by collecting them under the umbrella of the same legal category than by apportioning them between different rights.

Affiliations: 1: University of Milan MilanItaly

* I am grateful to the Center of Theological Inquiry (Princeton) that gave me the opportunity to take part in the 2014–15 Law and Religious Freedom research program as a visiting scholar. Most of the ideas collected in this article arose during discussions with other CTI research fellows.

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