The Value of Sacred Places

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This paper explores the neglected topic of the value of different religions’ sacred places. Such places have great value for different religions’ adherents, but that cannot account for their public political value, given that duties to respect such places fall on all citizens whatever their faith, as well as the phenomenon of secular sacred places. The paper considers and rejects three views of the value of sacred places: that they are protected by cultural rights, that damaging them would hurt the feelings of religious believers and that they are the collective property of religious groups. It then goes on to consider the right to religious liberty, which it’s argued (drawing on recent scholarship on religious accommodation) is best defended through the value of integrity or honouring one’s religious commitments. Though integrity is too individualistic a concept to explain the value of sacred places directly it’s argued that, in the way in which they demonstrate sacredness here on earth, sacred places do help enable integrity by showing what one’s commitments are invested in. This view of sacred places value is able to account for the value of non-religious sacred places, as well as duties to respect them all.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-66
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Law, Religion and State
Issue number1
Early online date2 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Mar 2021


  • Sacred Places, Religious Liberty, Integrity, Culture, Property

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