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On Secularism and Constitutionalism: The Threat of Militancy and the Quest for Accommodation

Pages
22
2009 / Vol. 21, No. 2, (72)
Digital Edition

On Secularism and Constitutionalism:
The Threat of Militancy
and the Quest for Accommodation

Ioannis A. Tassopoulos

Associate Professor, University of Athens (LL.B. University of Athens, 1986;
LL.M. Duke University, 1987; S.J.D. Duke University, 1989)

 The article argues that the challenge to constitutionalism does not come from secu­larism or religion per se, but rather from the militant character that they may take. Militancy’s belligerent approach and excessive aggressiveness tend to under­mine the peaceful (though not necessarily harmonious) coexistence between peo­ple of dif­­ferent (religious, political or philosophical) creeds. Militancy may be­come a fea­ture not only of the state, but of a social group as well. Equally serious challenges to constitutionalism may have their source in claims of religious per­sons regarding the accommodation of practices that they are conscientiously obli­gated to respect. However, multiculturalism and diversity cannot justify the com­munal collapse of the distinction between the private, the social and the public spheres. Extreme, so to speak, practices that are in deep conflict with equality be­tween men and women, such as the wearing of burkha (but not the wearing of the scarf) may legitimately be prohibited from schools for the sake of the elementary teaching of the values of democratic citizenship and civic equality between autonomous persons.

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