Category Archives: Law and Religion

Upcoming meeting of the Tradition Project, Rome, December 12-13

I look forward to participating in the third session of the St. John’s Law School Center for Law and Religion’s Tradition Project, “The Value of Tradition in the Global Context,” in Rome this week.

‘December 12, 2018
9.00 – 13.00
LUMSA University – Jubilee Complex
Via di Porta Castello, 44 – Rome

LUMSA University is co-organizing and hosting two major international conferences in  November and December one dealing with fundamental rights and conflicts between rights, the other with the value of tradition in a globalised world.
The first, November 15-16, will discuss “Fundamental Rights and Conflicts Among Rights“. The second, to be held on December 12-13, The Value of Tradition in the Global Context will explore the tension  between tradition and globalisation, between identities, by their nature local, and global government, by its nature centralising. What are the understandings of tradition at the global level? How is the relationship between local traditions and global government to be construed? How does  tradition relate to liberalism, nationalism and populism? and to human rights? (…)

Keynote address: Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., United States Supreme Court
Keynote respondents: Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Dalla Torre (President Vatican State Tribunal, Emerito LUMSA University), Hon. Prof. Ugo De Siervo (Presidente Emerito della Corte costituzionale italiana), Prof. Dr. Chantal Delsol (Emérite et Membre Académie des Sciences morales et politiques), Hon. Prof. Andrès Ollero (Tribunal Constitucional de España)

Moderator: Dr. R. R. Reno, First Things

Twenty scholars in law, politics, philosophy, from Europe and the USA will then discuss the themes in four workshops upon invitation.

Workshop participants: Prof. Pasquale Annicchino (European University Institute), Prof. Richard Garnett (University of Notre Dame), Prof. Eduardo Gianfrancesco (LUMSA University), Prof. John McGinnis (Northwestern University), Prof. Fabio Macioce (LUMSA University), Prof. Anna Moreland (Villanova University), Prof. Jide Nzelibe (Northwestern University), Prof. Andrea Pin (University of Padua), Prof. Emilia Powell (University of Notre Dame), Prof. Kristina Stoeckl (University of Innsbruck), Prof.  John Tasioulas (King’s College London), Prof. Hans-Martien Ten Napel (Leiden University), Prof. Marco Ventura (University of Siena, Fondazione Bruno Kessler di Trento), Prof. Adrian Vermeule (Harvard University)

Conference Conveners: Prof. Marc O. DeGirolami (St. John’s University), Prof. Monica Lugato (LUMSA University), Prof. Michael P.  Moreland (Villanova University), Prof. Mark L. Movsesian (St. John’s University)


Simultaneous translation will be provided.

The Programme
The Playbill’


For a podcast on the topic with Center Director Mark Movsesian and Associate Director Marc DeGirolami, see:

Legal Spirits Episode 003: Tradition in the Global Context

Winner of the International Award for Excellence for The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 8

‘Champaign, Ill., USA – 16 November 2018 – The Religion in Society Research Network is pleased to announce the selection of “The Significance of Communal Religious Freedom for Liberal Democracy,” Hans-Martien ten Napel, as the winner of the International Award for Excellence for Volume 8 of The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society. This article was selected for the award from among the highest-ranked articles emerging from the peer-review process and according to the selection criteria outlined in the peer-review guidelines.

About The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society: The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society aims to create an intellectual frame of reference for the academic study of religion and spirituality and to create an interdisciplinary conversation on the role of religion and spirituality in society. The journal addresses the need for critical discussion on religious issues—specifically as they are situated in the present-day contexts of ethics, warfare, politics, anthropology, sociology, education, leadership, artistic engagement, and the dissonance or resonance between religious tradition and modern trends.’

About the awarded article:

The main argument of my recent book Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human (Routledge, 2017) is that the so-called ‘New Critics of Religious Freedom’ in fact, consciously or unconsciously, criticize liberal democracy as such. Now, it has become quite common for liberal democracy to be criticized not just outside the West, but also from within the West. My book constitutes an exception to this rule in that it is written in defense of liberal democracy and, consequently, also in defense of the so-called liberal conception of the right to religious freedom. The awarded article reflects the same argument that the book aims to make. Earlier versions of the article were presented during the XXI World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions, Erfurt, Germany, 23-29 August 2015; the Cardiff Festival for Law and Religion, Cardiff, Wales, 5-6 May 2017; and the Annual Conference of the International Society of Public Law, Copenhagen, Denmark, 5-7 July 2017. In its emphasis on the role of anthropology, among other things, the article also reflects the Acton University Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that I attended from 20-23 June 2017. If I remember correctly, I wrote its final draft during the flight home from that occasion. I am grateful to the two anonymous referees from whose comments on that draft the article benefited greatly. Hopefully, the publication of this article and the current award will help to open the eyes of scholars outside my discipline to what I consider to be the beauty of liberal democracy in general and the right to religious freedom in particular as it was initially conceived during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Read the awarded article here:

See also:

Article on ‘The Significance of Communal Religious Freedom for Liberal Democracy’ in the International Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Society

Artikel ‘Geloof in de liberale democratie’ in Tijdschrift voor Religie, Recht en Beleid

Paper presentation during XXI World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions


Bijeenkomst onderzoekersnetwerk Religie en Recht over ‘Het juridische begrip van godsdienst’

Op vrijdag 30 november a.s. hoop ik aan de Vrije Universieit de e.v. bijeenkomst van het onderzoekersnetwerk Religie en Recht voor te zitten.

Voor deze bijeenkomst is mr. dr. A. (Jos) Vleugel (Universiteit Utrecht) uitgenodigd om een inleiding te verzorgen over ‘Het juridische begrip van godsdienst’. Hij schreef een dissertatie over dit onderwerp en promoveerde hierop aan de Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen op 21 september jl.

Voor meer informatie:

Gelet op het feit dat het een bijeenkomst van een onderzoekersnetwerk betreft, zullen vooral ook de vragen aan de orde komen waar de auteur tegen aanliep bij het schrijven van zijn proefschrift.

De bijeenkomst begint om 15.00u en zal rond 17.00 worden afgesloten. De locatie is zaal HB 1-B-04 (VU-PThU).

Wie belangstelling heeft de middag bij te wonen, kan zich aanmelden door een bericht te zenden aan:

‘Wie kunnen deelnemen?

Het onderzoekersnetwerk Recht en Religie staat open voor een ieder die aantoonbaar wetenschappelijk onderzoek doet of heeft gedaan op het terrein waar recht en religie elkaar raken. Dit kunnen niet alleen juristen en theologen (“kerkjuristen”) zijn, maar ook onderzoekers uit andere disciplines wier onderzoek zich op dit terrein begeeft.’


Zie ook:

Artikel ‘Geloof in de liberale democratie’ in Tijdschrift voor Religie, Recht en Beleid

Video debat ‘(A)theïsme – Brengt religie meer vrede, of meer oorlog?’, De Balie, 8 april 2018

Lid, promotiecommissie, D. van der Blom, ‘De verhouding van staat en religie in een veranderende Nederlandse samenleving’, 6 juli 2016

Article on ‘The Significance of Communal Religious Freedom for Liberal Democracy’ in the International Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Society

The abstract of the article reads as follows:

‘Leading US scholar of constitutional interpretation Michael Paulsen has developed an interesting theory of religious freedom called “The Priority of God.” Paulsen distinguishes, first of all, a liberal conception of religious freedom, according to which it is widely assumed that religious truth exists in a society and the state is tolerant towards various faiths and other traditions. The US, however, has developed in the direction of a modern conception of religious freedom, which no longer recognizes religious truth although the state remains tolerant. Moreover, still according to Paulsen, several European countries have adopted a postmodern conception of religious freedom. This conception does not only no longer recognize religious truth, but also implies a considerably less tolerant state, as secularism becomes the established “religion.” This view paradoxically resembles the preliberal stance of religious intolerance out of the conviction that religious truth exists. In response to such developments, the current article makes a case for the classical liberal position with respect to religious freedom. A liberal religious freedom conception forms the best guarantee that societal institutions will be able to fulfill their constitutional functions of a check on the government and as “seedbeds of virtue.”’


See also:

Upcoming Speaking Engagement: Conference on ‘Public Spirit and Public Virtue’, December 6, 2017, Washington, DC

Upcoming Speaking Engagement: 2017 ICON∙S Conference on ‘Courts, Power, and Public Law’, Copenhagen, July 5-7

Paper presentation during XXI World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions


Book Review of Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom in Journal of Markets & Morality

I am grateful to Prof. Jan Klos Hab. Ph.D. for taking the effort to write a review of my book for the Journal of Markets & Morality.

Jan Klos is a Professor at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Particular Ethics. He specializes in the history of social and political doctrines. Courses taught include philosophical foundations of political doctrines, foundations of American democracy, and political system of America.

In the review, Klos raises several interesting points regarding the book, to which I hope to respond some other time.

On p. 206, Prof. Klos writes:

‘The author does well to stress the importance of such nonstate actors as families and schools in the efforts to check the power of the state. Political and legal constitutionalism collaborate, as we know, in the separation between the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary. This kind of separation, however, does not in and of itself suffice for a mature civil society to be formed. I think that this point should be especially emphasized. With regard to constitutionalism and the right to freedom of religion or belief, more is needed than separation of political and legal powers. As Professor ten Napel writes, one should also “acknowledge that a communal dimension to this right exists” (148).’

The review ends as follows:

‘To sum up, the book Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom: To Be Fully Human is a well-written text on such important issues for contemporary societies as freedom of religion or belief in its communal form, freedom of conscience, and civic activity. It attempts to show an integral approach to the human being. This integral approach should strive to create such an ethos in which a full development of the human being is possible. By a full development is meant such a condition in which this being can manifest his or her beliefs not only within the privacy of his or her home but also in public without any fear of oppression or discrimination. If citizens are forced to hide their religious views, they are doomed to be inauthentic selves, and will always feel a kind of schizophrenia.’

You can read the whole review here:

‘Journal of Markets & Morality is a peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. The journal promotes intellectual exploration of the relationship between economics and morality from both social science and theological perspectives.’

See also:

Review of book on ‘Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human’

Boekbespreking van Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human in Radix. Tijdschrift over geloof, wetenschap en samenleving

Press Release: ‘Hans-Martien ten Napel has book published “Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human”’

Boekbespreking van Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human in Radix. Tijdschrift over geloof, wetenschap en samenleving


In de onlangs uitgekomen tweede aflevering uit 2018 van Radix. Tijdschrift over geloof, wetenschap en samenleving staat een nieuwe recensie van mijn boek Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human van de hand van R.J. (Robert) van Putten MSc MA.

Uit de recensie:

‘Ten Napels boek is een rechtstheoretische studie, grotendeels geschreven tijdens een scholarship aan Princeton, binnen een programma waarin verbinding wordt gelegd tussen juridische en theologische studies.’ (p. 152)

‘Het boek is voor de auteur een poging om zijn onderzoekslijnen rond recht, religie en constitutie van de afgelopen decennia bijeen te brengen en met een eigen these over religieuze vrijheid en de democratische rechtsstaat te komen.’ (ibid.)

‘Het is steeds ingebed in de persoonlijke intellectuele zoektocht van de auteur, legt verbindingen met het Nederlandse denken en doen, maar is vooral een grondige bijdrage aan discussies binnen het domein van het constitutioneel recht.’ (ibid.)

Het slot van de recensie luidt als volgt:

‘In deze hoofdstukken weet Ten Napel centrale noties uit de sociale en politieke filosofie van de brede christendemocratische traditie soepel in te zetten voor zijn betoog, waarbij hij steeds de bredere relevantie ervan betoogt. Dat wil zeggen, hij maakt zijn lezers – en dus vooral ook zijn vakgenoten in het constitutioneel recht – duidelijk dat zijn visie niet alleen van betekenis is voor religieuzen, maar vooral ook het project van een liberaal-democratische samenleving en rechtsstaat als zodanig ondersteunt. Ten Napel is zich nadrukkelijk bewust van het feit dat hij een relatief ongebruikelijk boek heeft geschreven. Op heel eloquente manier behandelt hij dan ook “anticipated criticism”, namelijk dat zijn boek te normatief zou zijn voor de discipline van het constitutioneel recht. Het gaat inherent om “essentially contested concepts”, waardoor een normatief perspectief onvermijdelijk is. En gegeven het feit dat de theologie van grote invloed is geweest op centrale concepten als constitutionalisme, democratie en religieuze vrijheid zou het eerder vreemd zijn wanneer inzichten uit de christelijke traditie buiten beschouwing zouden moeten blijven.

Ten Napel heeft al met al een heel fraai boek opgeleverd. Het is vooral ook een boek dat het verdient breder gelezen te worden dan binnen de kringen van de internationale constitutionele rechtswetenschap. Juist ook voor het Nederlandse publieke debat vormt dit boek nadrukkelijk een theoretische versterking tegenover al te secularistische (en daarmee potentieel zelfondermijnende) benaderingen van democratie, rechtsstaat en religieuze vrijheid. Er staat, kortom, veel op het spel met deze thematiek. Niets minder dan To be fully human.’ (p. 154)

De auteur van de recensie is als docent en promovendus verbonden aan de afdeling Bestuurswetenschappen & Politicologie van de Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Het tijdschrift Radix is ‘een multidisciplinair, wetenschappelijk kwartaaltijdschrift dat een platform biedt voor artikelen op de kruispunten van geloof, wetenschap en samenleving’ en wordt uitgegeven door ForumC.

Bron, en bestelinformatie:

Zie voorts:

Review of book on ‘Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human’

Artikel ‘Geloof in de liberale democratie’ in Tijdschrift voor Religie, Recht en Beleid

Press Release: ‘Hans-Martien ten Napel has book published “Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human”’


Chapter in forthcoming volume on Religion, Pluralism, and Reconciling Difference

The description of the volume, edited by W. Cole Durham Jr. and Donlu Thayer, reads as follows:

‘We live in an increasingly pluralized world. This sociological reality has become the irreversible destiny of humankind. Even once religiously homogeneous societies are becoming increasingly diverse. Religious freedom is modernity’s most profound if sometimes forgotten answer to the resulting social pressures, but the tide of pluralization threatens to overwhelm that freedom’s stabilizing force.

Religion, Pluralism, and Reconciling Difference is aimed at exploring differing ways of grappling with the resulting tensions, and then asking, will the tensions ultimately yield poisonous polarization that erodes all hope of meaningful community? Or can the tradition and the institutions protecting freedom of religion or belief be developed and applied in ways that (still) foster productive interactions, stability, and peace?

This volume brings together vital and thoughtful contributions treating aspects of these mounting worldwide tensions concerning the relationship between religious diversity and social harmony. The first section explores controversies surrounding religious pluralism from different starting points, including religious, political, and legal standpoints. The second section examines different geographical perspectives on pluralism. Experts from North and South America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East address these issues and suggest not only how social institutions can reduce tensions, but also how religious pluralism itself can bolster needed civil society.’

For the table of contents of the volume, see:

My chapter is titled: ‘Western “Civic Totalism”, Sovereignty of the People, and the Need for Limited Government’.

For more information, and to order, see:

See also:

Paper presentation during third bi-annual ICLARS conference in Virginia, United States

Blogpost ‘Religious Freedom, Eastern Ethical Monism, and Western “Civic Totalism”‘

International Conference on “The Rule of Law with Chinese Characteristics in Transition”

Signatory to Amicus effort in Lautsi case before European Court of Human Rights (2010)

In 2010, Notre Dame Professor of Law Paolo Carozza led ‘a group of more than 50 law professors from 15 countries who have submitted written comments asking the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights to overturn a seven-judge panel’s ruling that crucifixes may not be displayed in Italian classrooms. (…)

“The challenges of religious pluralism in contemporary Europe can’t be resolved through the false premise that banning religious symbols from public spaces is somehow a ‘neutral’ position,” Carozza said. “Pluralism must be achieved through a genuine dialogue among the religious traditions of the European peoples, a dialogue that becomes impossible if the symbols representing the historic traditions of the continent are excised from public life, including education.”

Working with European colleagues, Carozza assembled a coalition of prominent legal scholars from across Europe, including former constitutional court judges from three countries, to intervene as amicus curiae in the case. The group is being represented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. (…)

In their friend-of-the-court brief, the law professors argue that the panel’s ruling needlessly threatens the wide variety of religious symbols on display on public property all over Europe, including national flags, coats of arms, and public art. The professors also warn that the panel’s decision risks setting off a widespread conflict between government and religion. Given the wide diversity of religious practices across Europe, it makes little sense to try to create a secularist “common denominator.” Rather, they contend, the Court should give states substantial leeway to structure the church-state relationship in harmony with tradition, history and culture.

“One of the cornerstones of the construction of modern Europe was precisely the acceptance of a wide variety of practices regarding religion and public life in the various states of the region,” Carozza said. “The European Court of Human Rights has in its best moments been protective of that rich and important diversity of cultures among the peoples of Europe, but the Chamber in this case betrayed that ideal by imposing a very narrow and uniform model of what is required of the state.”’


You can read the brief, to which I was a signatory and which was rejected by the Court, here:

See also:

A Test of Faith? Religious Diversity and Accommodation in the European Workplace

Article in Muslim World Journal of Human Rights (2011)

Chapter in volume on Law and Religion in the 21st Century. Relations between States and Religious Communities (2010)

Chapter on ‘The Boundaries of Faith-Based Organizations in Europe’ in forthcoming Research Handbook on Law and Religion

The description of the edited volume reads as follows:

‘Offering an interdisciplinary, international and philosophical perspective, this comprehensive Handbook explores both perennial and recent legal issues that concern the modern state and its interaction with religious communities and individuals.

Providing in-depth, original analysis the book includes studies of a wide array of nation-states, such as India and Turkey, which each have their own complex issues centred on law, religion and the interactions between the two. Longstanding issues of religious liberty are explored such as the right of conscientious objection, religious confession privilege and the wearing of religious apparel. The contested meanings of the secular state and religious neutrality are revisited from different perspectives and the reality of the international human rights protections for religious freedom are analysed.

Timely and astute, this discerning Handbook will be a valuable resource for both academics and researchers interested in the many topics surrounding law and religion. Lawyers and practitioners will also appreciate the clarity with which the rights of religious liberty, and the challenges in making these compatible with state law, are presented.’

The Research Handbook, to be published with Edward Elgar in September 2018, is edited by Rex Ahdar, Faculty of Law, University of Otago, New Zealand.

My own chapter is entitled: ‘The Boundaries of Faith-Based Organizations in Europe.’

Other contributors to the volume include: R. Albert, B.L. Berger, J.E. Buckingham, P. Dane, J. Harrison, M.A. Helfand, M. Hill, A. Koppelman, I. Leigh, J. Neo, Y. Rosnai, R. Sandberg, S.D. Smith, K. Thompson and F. Venter.

See for the full table of contents, and order information:

See also:

Paper presentation during XXI World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions

New volume on ‘Religion and Civil Society: The Changing Faces of Religion and Secularity’

NWO to finance research project ‘Religion Renegotiated: Faith-Based Organizations and the State in the Netherlands since the 1960s’


Upcoming Speaking Engagement: The Fifth ICLARS Conference – Living Together in Diversity: Strategies from Law and Religion

The conference will take place at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (Departamento de Direito), Brasil, from 12-14 September 2018

I will be addressing the question: “Can natural law serve as foundation for a truly universal right to freedom of religion or belief?”

Other speakers during the conference include: Silvio Ferrari (University of Milan, Italy), Mark Hill (Cardiff University, United Kingdom), Ewelina Ochab (University of Kent), Ahmed Salisu Garba (Law Bauchi State University, Nigeria), Neil Foster (Newcastle Law School, Australia), Brett Scharffs (BrighamYoung University, USA), Rick Garnett (University of Notre Dame, USA), Javier Martínez-Torrón (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, España), John Inazu (Washington University, USA), Gerhard Robbers (Trier), Jan Figel (EU Special Envoy on Religious Freedom), Jessica Giles (The Open University, United Kingdom), Zachary Calo (Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar), Pieter Coertzen (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), Li-Ann Thio (National University of Singapore Faculty of Law, Singapore), and Cole Durham (Brigham Young University, USA).

For the full program, see:

See also:

Review of book on ‘Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human’

Panel Chair and Presenter, First Annual Conference, European Academy of Religion, Bologna, 5-8 March, 2018

Paper presentation during third bi-annual ICLARS conference in Virginia, United States