Major New Report by the National Secular Society: Rethinking Religion and Belief in Public Life

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‘The report says that Britain’s “drift away from Christianity” coupled with the rise in minority religions and increasing non-religiosity demands a “long term, sustainable settlement on the relationship between religion and the state”.

Rethinking religion and belief in public life: a manifesto for change has been sent to all MPs as part of a major drive by the Society to encourage policymakers and citizens of all faiths and none to find common cause in promoting principles of secularism.

It calls for Britain to evolve into a secular democracy with a clear separation between religion and state and criticises the prevailing multi-faithist approach as being “at odds with the increasing religious indifference” in Britain.

Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society president, said: “Vast swathes of the population are simply not interested in religion, it doesn’t play a part in their lives, but the state refuses to recognise this. Britain is now one of the most religiously diverse and, at the same time, non-religious nations in the world. Rather than burying its head in the sand, the state needs to respond to these fundamental cultural changes. Our report sets out constructive and specific proposals to fundamentally reform the role of religion in public life to ensure that every citizen can be treated fairly and valued equally, irrespective of their religious outlook.”‘

Source: http://www.secularism.org.uk/rethinking-religion-and-belief-i.html. Here you can also read, and endorse, the report.

In my forthcoming book I write that it is not just meant for readers who could be expected to sympathise with some or all of the theoretical starting points set out in the introduction, but also as a modest invitation precisely to dissenters to engage in a “respectful academic conversation” similar to what Founding Director of the Center for Christian Studies at Gordon College (now the Center for Faith and Inquiry) Harold Heie calls a “respectful political conversation”. Should this not, or no longer, be possible, then it will also prove difficult to uphold the ideal of a pluralistic public square as part of one’s democracy conception, as advocated in the book.

This is the fifth post in a new series introducing my forthcoming book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To be Fully Human (Routledge, 2017).

For the first four posts, please see:

Symposium on Christian Democracy and America: ‘Can Christian Democracy Be America’s Next European Import?’

Journalist Ben Judah, Author of This is London (2016): ‘I Found Faith Everywhere’

The Washington Post on Why Religious Freedom Could Become the Major Religion Story of 2017

Book on Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom. To Be Fully Human (Routledge) now available for pre-order

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

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Paper presentation during XXI World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions, panel on ‘Religion Renegotiated: Faith-Based Organizations and the State since the 1960s’, Erfurt, Germany, August 23-29, 2015: http://www.iahr2015.org/iahr/3158.html.

Panel description:

‘Christian faith-based organizations have long been regarded as constitutive to the functioning of civil society and hence granted a special position in both the communis opinio and legislation of European societies. However, rampant deconfessionalization and growing disbelief have undermined Christianity’s societal position, and with Islam increasingly becoming the religion of European-born citizens and whilst visibility of Muslim communities has become more apparent, issues on the ‘proper’ interlocution between state-religion-society are more than ever at the heart of public debate. Nonetheless, few issues are at once so central and so understudied as the relationship between faith-based organizations and the state. This panel will theoretically assess to what extent and how the boundaries between the state and faith-based organizations have been reshaped since the 1960s. The papers tackle these issues by an empirical focus on developments in social policy, the law and public debates in the Netherlands.’

Vacancy for a post-doctoral researcher as part of the NWO project Religion Renegotiated: Faith-Based Organizations and the State in the Netherlands since the 1960s – Public Debate

‘The Institute for Culture and History (ICH) & the Department of History, Archaeology and Area Studies of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) currently have a vacancy for a post-doctoral researcher (0,8 fte, three years) as part of the NWO project Religion Renegotiated: Faith-Based Organizations and the State in the Netherlands since the 1960s – Public Debate, supervised by Prof. dr. James Kennedy, conducted in close collaboration with Mr. dr. Hans-Martien ten Napel at Leiden University. Applications are now invited from excellent candidates with max. two years experience after obtaining their PhD who wish to conduct research on the changing relationship of church-state relations in the Netherlands since the 1960s and situate it in a broader transnational context.

Project description

The postdoctoral scholar responsible for this project will investigate public discourses in the Netherlands in respect to the place of faith-based organizations, and the task of government in regulating or supporting them. For example, to what extent did the call for individual freedom, non-discrimination and self-emancipation alter existing rights (or privileges) of existing faith-based organizations?  Data-mining from digital sources will be a crucial component of this research.

Tasks will include:

  • completion of a monograph within three years;
  • regular presentation of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences, and publications in proceedings and  journals;
  • close collaboration with the other researchers of the group (including on issues not directly connected to one’s own project, incl. the organization of conferences and joint publications);
  • assisting the appointed PhD candidate in the research is also expected.

Functie-eisen

  • A doctoral degree in a relevant field, such as history, religious studies, law or the social sciences;
  • good academic writing and presentation skills;
  • good social and organizational skills;
  • proficiency in Dutch and English.  Working knowledge of other languages is of additional value.

Arbeidsvoorwaarden

The postdoctoral candidate (with max two years of experience after obtaining PhD) will be appointed for 0,8 fte for a period of three years at the Faculty of Humanities beginning  1 December 2013.’

For additional information, see www.academictransfer.com/19640.

Vacant PhD position as part of the NWO project Religion Renegotiated: Faith-Based Organizations and the State in the Netherlands since the 1960s – Public Policy

‘The Institute for Culture and History of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) currently has a vacant PhD position (full-time, four years) as part of the NWO project Religion Renegotiated: Faith-Based Organizations and the State in the Netherlands since the 1960s – Public Policy, supervised by Prof. dr. James Kennedy, conducted in close collaboration with Mr. dr. Hans-Martien ten Napel at Leiden University. Applications are now invited from excellent candidates who wish to conduct research on the changing relationship of church-state relations in the Netherlands since the 1960s and situate it in a broader transnational context.

Project description

This researcher will investigate Dutch policy regarding religious pluralism, focusing on the field of legislative change since the 1960s.  The relationship between government and faith-based organizations is the central point of interest.  The researcher will focus on debates within the legislative branch and the development of policy in government agencies, including a limited selection of case studies at the local level.

Tasks will include:

  • completion and defence of a PhD thesis within four years;
  • regular presentation of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences, and publications in proceedings and  journals;
  • close collaboration with the other researchers of the group (including on issues not directly connected to one’s own PhD project, incl. the organization of conferences and joint publications);
  • assisting in teaching activities;
  • participation in the training program of the Graduate School for Humanities;
  • a Master’s degree (or equivalent) with excellent grades in a relevant field, such as history, religious studies, law or the social sciences;
  • good academic writing and presentation skills;
  • good social and organizational skills;
  • proficiency in Dutch and English.

Requirements 

  • A Master’s degree (or equivalent) with excellent grades in a relevant field, such as history, religious studies, law or the social sciences;
  • good academic writing and presentation skills;
  • good social and organizational skills;
  • proficiency in Dutch and English.

Arbeidsvoorwaarden

The PhD candidate will be appointed full-time for a period of four years at the Faculty of Humanities. A first contract will be given for 12 months, with an extension for the remaining period on the basis of a positive evaluation. 
The preferred starting date of the contract is 1 December 2013.’

For additional information, see www.academictransfer.com/19639.