What's So Special About Religious Freedom?

September 1, 2012

On November 17, 2011, the Religious Freedom Project conducted its first public symposium. In keeping with its objective of exploring the meaning and value of religious freedom, the RFP’s first symposium began at the beginning with the theme “What’s So Special About Religious Freedom?". This report is an edited transcript of three profoundly fascinating and in some ways groundbreaking conversations. The first is a discussion of the historical and contemporary sources of religious freedom in the West. Top scholars debate the contributions, respectively, of Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism, and Enlightenment secularism. The second is a debate over the conference’s core question—what, if anything, is special about religious freedom, this time in the American context. The combatants are two of America’s most eminent jurists: Stanford Law’s Michael McConnell and Harvard Law’s Noah Feldman. The third turns to the question of the universality of religious freedom and its compatibility with non-Western cultures.

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