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October 18, 2012

Report of the Georgetown Symposium on Religious Freedom and Equality: Emerging Conflicts in North America and Europe

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Religious Freedom Project

Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs has received a $2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to support the interdisciplinary study of religious...


Religious Freedom in the U.S. and Europe

While the role of religion can be strikingly different on both sides of the Atlantic, American and European societies face similar challenges to religious liberty. The U.S. model of high levels of...

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Thomas FarrThomas Farr

Thomas F. Farr is director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and a visiting associate...

Timothy ShahTimothy Shah

Timothy Samuel Shah is associate director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and...


Ilan AlonIlan Alon

Ilan Alon is the George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Chair of International Business and director of the China Center at Rollins College, as well as a...

José CasanovaJosé Casanova

José Casanova is one of the world's top scholars in the sociology of religion. He is a professor at the Department of Sociology at Georgetown...

Jean Bethke ElshtainJean Bethke Elshtain

Jean Bethke Elshtain was the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago from 1996 until her...

Anthony GillAnthony Gill

Tony Gill is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington, adjunct professor of sociology at the UW, and a...

William InbodenWilliam Inboden

William Inboden is associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and executive director of the Clements Center for History, Strategy, and...

Timur KuranTimur Kuran

Timur Kuran is professor of economics and political science, and Gorter Family Professor in Islamic Studies at Duke University. Kuran’s research...

David NovakDavid Novak

David Novak holds the J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies as Professor of the Study of Religion and Professor of Philosophy at the...

John M. OwenJohn M. Owen

John M. Owen is the Ambassador Henry J. and Mrs. Marion R. Taylor Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Liberal...

Daniel PhilpottDaniel Philpott

Daniel Philpott, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for Peace Studies, specializes in the...

Ani SarkissianAni Sarkissian

Ani Sarkissian is an assistant professor of political science at Michigan State University, where she is a core faculty member of the Muslim...

Mona SiddiquiMona Siddiqui

Mona Siddiqui is professor of Islamic and inter-religious studies and assistant principal for religion and society at the University of Edinburgh....

Monica Duffy ToftMonica Duffy Toft

Monica Duffy Toft is professor of government and public policy at Oxford University's Blavatnik School of Government. She previously was associate...

Roger TriggRoger Trigg

Roger Trigg, of St Cross College, Oxford, is senior research fellow in the Ian Ramsey Centre, University of Oxford, and a member of Oxford's...

Robert WoodberryRobert Woodberry

Robert Woodberry is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Project on Religion and Economic Change (PREC) at the...


Kyle Vander MeulenKyle Vander Meulen

Kyle Vander Meulen joined the Berkley Center in January 2011. Before coming to the center, he completed his master's studies in Divinity at the...

Claudia WinklerClaudia Winkler

Claudia Winkler joined the Berkley Center in February 2014. Before joining the center, Claudia completed her master's degree in German at...

April 11, 2012

Religious Freedom and Equality: Emerging Conflicts in North America and Europe

In both Europe and North America, an increasing emphasis on equality has pitted rights claims against each other, raising profound philosophical, moral, legal, and political questions about the meaning and reach of religious liberty. The questions emerge in several areas -- for example, questions of religious conscience, an all male Roman Catholic clergy, or the prospect of establishing a separate Muslim system of family law within a democratic state.

No question is more salient in the West, however, than the emerging conflict between new equal rights claims on behalf of homosexuals and existing claims of religious freedom. The conference at Magdalen College focused on this issue as the primary exemplar of the broader conflict. An RFP Report on the symposium, including a full transcript of the lectures and panel discussions, can be found here.
Three examples illustrate emerging conflicts surrounding the principle of equality and the rights of religious groups and individuals.

- The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington DC ceased its foster care program because DC's same-sex marriage law would have required placement of children with same-sex couples.

- The High Court in the United Kingdom denied to a married Christian couple the right to foster children because they would not agree to teach their children that homosexuality is natural.

- In California, the federal judge who overturned a referendum defining marriage as between a man and a woman dismissed religious and moral arguments against same-sex marriage as "irrational", and for that reason unconstitutional.

Each of these examples addresses the tension between claims of equal rights and the claims of religious freedom in various domains: the rights of religious communities to adhere to their fundamental teachings, including protecting the rights of conscience; the rights of parents to impart their religious beliefs to their children; and the liberty to advance religiously-based moral arguments as a rationale for laws.

The conference brought together leading scholars, politicians, and religious leaders to explore how these tensions and conflicts are playing out differently on both sides of the Atlantic. It consisted of three panels – on the United States and Canada, the United Kingdom and Ireland, and continental Europe – that debated a core set of questions.

- What are the legal and moral frameworks that govern tensions between claims for homosexual equality and for religious freedom?

- How are those tensions illustrated in particular legal, political, and policy controversies?

- What is the proper balance between new claims of equality before the law, on the one hand, and existing claims for freedom of religious groups and individuals, on the other?


Philip Tartaglia

Philip Tartaglia

Bishop Philip Tartaglia is Bishop of Paisley, Scotland, a position he was nominated for in 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI. He was ordained a priest in 1975, and completed his Doctorate in Sacred Theology in 1980. During this time he was appointed Dean of Studies of the Pontifical Scots College in Rome in addition to acting as Vice-Rector. In 1981 he was appointed Lecturer at St. Peter’s College, Newlands, becoming Director of Studies in 1983. In 1985 he was made Vice-Rector of the newly opened Chesters College, Bearsden, where he was appointed Rector after two years. He was appointed Parish Priest of St. Mary’s, Duntocher, in 1995, and in 2004 the Bishops’ Conference asked him to return to seminary as Rector of the Pontifical Scots College in Rome.


Rocco Buttiglione

Rocco Buttiglione

Rocco Buttiglione is a Professor of Political Science at Saint Pius V University in Rome, and a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. An academic and a Christian Democrat politician, Buttiglione has held various offices in Italian...
John Finnis

John Finnis

John M. Finnis is Biolchini Family Professor of Law at Notre Dame University and Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at Oxford University. Finnis has worked in the realms of moral, political, and legal theory and is also a noted scholar of...
Richard Garnett

Richard Garnett

Richard Garnett is Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Professor of Law and Concurrent Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame Law School. He teaches and writes on the freedoms of speech, association, and religion, as...
Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg

Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg

Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg is Professor of Law at Uppsala University in Sweden, where she was Dean of the Faculty of Law from 2004 to 2008. Her research interests are in private international law, international civil procedure, family law, EC-law,...
Stephen Law

Stephen Law

Stephen Law is a philosopher and senior lecturer at Heythrop College in the University of London. He is also the editor of the philosophical journal Think, published by the Royal Institute of Philosophy and aimed at the general public. He is a...
Linda McClain

Linda McClain

Linda McClain is Professor of Law and the Paul M. Siskind Research Scholar at Boston University School of Law. She is also a Faculty Fellow in the Religion Fellows Program at the BU School of Theology. Her interests include family law and policy,...
Christopher McCrudden

Christopher McCrudden

Christopher McCrudden is Professor of Human Rights and Equality Law, Queen’s University Belfast, and William W. Cook Global Law Professor at the University of Michigan Law School. During the 2013-2013 academic year McCrudden is a Straus Fellow at...
John Perry

John Perry

The Rt Rev. John Perry is currently Executive Chairman of the Lee Abbey Movement, Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), and a Vice-President of the University of Gloucester and of Mildmay Mission...
Andrea Pin

Andrea Pin

Andrea Pin is Assistant Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Padova, Italy. He is also a lecturer of Public Comparative Law in that university's faculty of law. Previously, he was a lecturer of Interethnic Law in the Catholic...
Robin Wilson

Robin Wilson

Robin Wilson is Professor of Law and Law Alumni Faculty Fellow at Washington and Lee University School of Law. A specialist in family and health law, her academic interests also include insurance and biomedical ethics. She is the editor or...