Authors: Stephen J. Hunt
It has often been assumed that in liberal democracies there is a widening gap between the secular public square and the religious domain which is increasing restricted to matters of private conviction. Recently, a reappraisal of this binary distinction has generated critical or at least more nuanced appraisals of secular-religion bifurcation, raising questions as to whether it can be regarded as a key indicator of long-term secularization processes. This paper attempts a contribution to the current debate through a discussion of religious rights legislation in the UK. It considers how religion has increasingly been drawn into the public arena by the state through civil rights formations often via legislative enactments which engage with extending and transforming conceptions of citizenship related to equality and social inclusion but in such a way as to stimulate the separation of the secular and religious domains, defining religion and regulating its scope in public life. The paper also considers how the state balances religious rights what is deemed to be in the “public interest”.
Keywords: citizenship, equality, religion, rights, secularity