What’s wrong with establishment?

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This paper examines what objections we might have to moderate religious establishment as found in a number of contemporary liberal democracies. This form of establishment respects citizen’s rights and liberties, so it is not immediately clear what if anything is troubling about it. One view is that moderate establishment is alienating for non-believers but I suggest this is either untrue or rests on contestable premises. Another view is that moderate establishment communicates an unacceptable message to those outside the faith. However, I argue that there is no clear expressive harm involved. In the final section of the paper, I defend an ideal of public reason which is exclusivist, since citizens must abjure from controversial religious premises in public political debate, but also (contrary to common assumptions about public reason) applies to the sorts of non-coercive measures moderate establishment often involves. I argue that under such a public reason framework, moderate establishment measures are often illegitimate, though not invariably so.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-204
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Early online date9 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

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