Toward a New Paradigm for Law and Religion

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The continued vitality of religion has motivated many scholars in sociology, anthropology, political theory, international relations, and philosophy to revisit their assumptions about how religion relates to their disciplines.

by Mark C. Modak-Truran (Mississippi College – School of Law)

Despite this robust reexamination in other disciplines, the secularization of law – that the law is or should be independent of any religious foundation or values – arguably constitutes the most widely-held but least-examined assumption of the modern paradigm of law and religion (secularism). This article argues that the widespread acceptance of legal indeterminacy calls into question this secularism and points the way toward the desecularization of the law.

Desecularization does not mean returning to the pre-modern paradigm (theocracy) as suggested by contemporary calls for government recognition of the United States as a Christian nation by posting the Ten Commandments, displaying creches, etc.

While somewhat exaggerated, the charge of theocracy accurately identifies the implicit assumption that the law is or should be legitimated by a particular religious tradition – the “Judeo-Christian tradition” – in the world’s most religiously diverse nation.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and a proper understanding of religious pluralism rule out returning to the pre-modern paradigm. They prohibit the law from explicitly adopting a religious legitimation and require that the text of the law be secularized.

Nevertheless, the secularized text of the law does not mean that the law has an autonomous secular foundation.

As seen by the Muslim headscarf controversy in France, the secularism proposed by the modern paradigm includes or entails a comprehensive or religious foundation for the law that competes with traditional religion.

In this respect, the modern paradigm continues rather than supersedes the pre-modern paradigm and contravenes the Establishment Clause and religious pluralism. To move beyond theocracy (pre-modern) and secularism (modern), this article closes by indentifying the trajectory for a new constructive postmodern paradigm that embraces legal indeterminacy and secularizing the text of the law but argues that a plurality of religious convictions implicitly legitimates and thereby desecularizes the law.

Obervatoire Des Religions

Observatory of Religions  The 21st century will be or not be religious. This Malraux prophecy is being fufilled: the impact of religion on political, economic, financial and social spheres is making front page news. Observatory of Religions’ (L’Observatoire des religions) perspective, that is; the observation, analysis and commentary of religious issues in a current affairs framework, is purely unreligious. L'Observatoir des Religions was created by Philippe Simonnot, economist and author of numerous works on history and economics.
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