Classical liberalism was supposed to resolve religious conflict within a society, principally by making religion a private matter and, in compensation, allowing religious communities, within limits, to conduct themselves as they saw fit. Today, the classical liberal model is undergoing a lot of stress, as people, particularly on the left, increasingly question what those limits should be. Hans-Martien ten Napel (Leiden University), one of the most interesting scholars in comparative law and religion today, has a new book, Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom: To Be Fully Human (Routledge), that addresses these questions. Here’s the description from the Routledge website:
In both Europe and North America it can be argued that the associational and institutional dimensions of the right to freedom of religion or belief are increasingly coming under pressure. This book demonstrates why a more classical understanding of the idea of a liberal democracy can allow for greater respect for the right to freedom of religion or belief.
The book examines the major direction in which liberal democracy has developed over the last fifty years and contends that this is not the most legitimate type of liberal democracy for religiously divided societies. Drawing on theoretical developments in the field of transnational constitutionalism, Hans-Martien ten Napel argues that redirecting the concept and practice of liberal democracy toward the more classical notion of limited, constitutional government, with a considerable degree of autonomy for civil society organizations would allow greater religious pluralism. The book shows how, in a postsecular and multicultural context, modern sources of constitutionalism and democracy, supplemented by premodern, transcendental legitimation, continue to provide the best means of legitimating Western constitutional and political orders.