Ahdar & Leigh, “Religious Freedom in the Liberal State”

This week, Oxford University Press publishes a new edition of Religious Freedom in the Liberal State, by Rex Ahdar (Otago) and Ian Leigh (Durham). The publisher’s description follows:

Examining the law and public policy relating to religious liberty in Western liberal democracies, this book contains a detailed analysis of the history, rationale, scope, and limits of religious freedom from (but not restricted to) an evangelical Christian perspective. Focussing on United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and EU, it studies the interaction between law and religion at several different levels, looking at the key debates that have arisen.

Divided into three parts, the book begins by contrasting the liberal and Christian rationales for and understandings of religious freedom. It then explores central thematic issues: the types of constitutional frameworks within which any right to religious exercise must operate; the varieties of paradigmatic relationships between organized religion and the state; the meaning of ‘religion’; the limitations upon individual and institutional religious behaviour; and the domestic and international legal mechanisms that have evolved to address religious conduct. The final part explores key subject areas where current religious freedom controversies have arisen: employment; education; parental rights and childrearing; controls on pro-religious and anti-religious expression; medical treatment; and religious group (church) autonomy.

This new edition is fully updated with the growing case law in the area, and features increased coverage of Islam and the flashpoint debates surrounding the accommodation of Muslim beliefs and practices in Anglophone nations.

Shortt, “Christianophobia”

“Christianophobia” is a relatively new word that refers to two fairly old, and distinct, phenomena. The first is the antipathy for traditional Christianity among cultural leaders in the West, especially Europe. This antipathy dates from the Enlightenment, but has gained strength in the last few decades. The second, and far more pressing, matter is the outright persecution of Christians in many other parts of the world.  Later this month, Eerdmans will release Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack, by Rupert Shortt, religion editor of the Times Literary Supplement. Shortt’s book focuses on the latter problem. Here’s the publisher’s description:

On October 29, 2005, three Indonesian schoolgirls were beheaded as they walked to school — targeted because they were Christian. Like them, many Christians around the world suffer violence or discrimination for their faith. In fact, more Christians than people of any other faith group now live under threat. Why is this religious persecution so widely ignored?

In Christianophobia Rupert Shortt investigates the shocking treatment of Christians on several continents and exposes the extent of official collusion. Christian believers generally don’t become radicalized but tend to resist nonviolently and keep a low profile, which has enabled politicians and the media to play down a problem of huge dimensions. The book is replete with relevant historical background to place events within their appropriate political and social context.

Shortt demonstrates how freedom of belief is the canary in the mine for freedom in general. Published at a time when the fundamental importance of faith on the world stage is being recognized more than ever, this book will be essential reading for anyone interested in people’s right to religious freedom, no matter where, or among whom, they live.