Religious American and Secular European Courts? A study of institutional cross-pollination

Effie Fokas

in ed. Titus Hjelm, Peter L. Berger and the Sociology of Religion: 50 Years after The Sacred Canopy, (2018) London: Bloomsbury Academic, 135-155

In his 2005 National Interest article on ‘Religion and the West’, Peter Berger suggested that one of the variables distinguishing between a religious America and a secular Europe is the function of certain institutions, such as the educational system, political parties and labor unions. In Religious America, Secular Europe?, we explored, amongst these, the role of the judiciary and, specifically, the critical differences between the United States Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. The present article explores a phenomenon which has developed especially in the period since the publication of that book: namely, the cross-pollination of the two courts achieved by religiously motivated legal actors seeking to influence the handling of certain religion-related matters by the ‘other’ court. The article is based on empirical research conducted with a number of such engaged US and Europe-based legal actors.

Available here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/peter-l-berger-and-the-sociology-of-religion-9781350061897/

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Pluralism and Religious Freedom. Insights from Orthodox Europe

Effie Fokas

in eds. Elisabeth A. Diamantopoulou and Louis-Leon Christians, Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights in Europe: A Dialogue Between Theological Paradigms and Socio-Legal Pragmatics, (2018) Oxford: Peter Lang

A snapshot of European societies today reveals the importance of religious minority treatment and the grave potential that the latter can carry for instability and even social unrest in a situation of rapidly increasing religious diversity. The Pew Forum’s influential study on the ‘Rising tide of restrictions on religion’ highlighted the problem on a global scale. Most conspicuous are the reactions of Muslim groups against what they perceive to be intolerant majorities, but other (less attended by the mass media) religious minority experiences are no less compelling evidence of tensions around religious pluralism in localities across Europe. Registration restrictions, curtailed rights to expressions of faith, and exclusion from mass media are amongst several limitations on religious freedom experienced by religious minorities in Europe.

Such limitations of religious freedoms are particularly prominent in countries where Orthodox Christianity is the majority faith. Indicatively, majority Orthodox states are accountable for 63% of all European Court of Human Rights convictions for religious freedoms violations. What is the reason behind this state of affairs? Is there something intrinsic to Orthodoxy as a religious and social institution that makes it intolerant towards minorities? Or are there historical and political particularities in individual Orthodox majority countries that underlie the barriers to religious freedoms in each case?

This chapter draws on empirical research conducted in four majority Orthodox countries with the explicit aim of addressing such questions. Specifically, the text reflects research conducted by the author in Bulgaria, Romania, Russia and Greece, in response to two particular realities: first, the aforementioned prominence of limitations to religious freedoms in majority Orthodox contexts, and second, a body of social science literature questioning the relationship between Orthodoxy and pluralism.

Available here: https://www.peterlang.com/view/title/61649

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Localized human rights and local secularism

30 August – 1 September 2018

Mid-Term Conference, Sociology of Religion RN ESA, University of Turin, Campus Luigi Einaudi

On 31 August Alberta Giorgi participated in the European Sociological Association (ESA) Sociology of Religion Research Network Mid-Term Conference on the theme ‘Religions and Identities in the European Migration Crisis’. Her presentation on ‘Localized human rights and local secularism’ explored the complex role that the redefinition of the government scalarity plays in the governance of religious diversity, specifically investigating the tensions between the municipal, regional and national governments through a focus on Italy.

The conference programme is available here.

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Journal Special Issue: Religion and Education in the Shadow of the European Court of Human Rights

Politics and Religion, 2018

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