In Defense of Religious Freedom: New Critics of a Beleaguered Human Right

November 1, 2016

Until relatively recently Americans disagreed about what religious freedom meant in practice, but they espoused religious freedom and insisted that it cannot be government's job to promote any one religious sect over others or coerce anyone's conscience in religious matters. For a time, this consensus seemed poised to embrace the entire world. In this article Timothy Shah and Daniel Philpott review new publications from Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Saba Mahmood, and Peter G. Danchin which argue that religious freedom is the product and the agenda of one culture in one historical period—the modern West—and should remain limited to that milieu. Shah and Philpott counter that the minimalist moral intuition of religious freedom as religious noncoercion, far from being parochial or peculiar to the modern West, enjoys a widespread resonance across history and across cultures. The essay was published in the Journal of Law and Religion.

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