Religious Symbols in Public Functions: Unveiling State Neutrality

A Comparative Analysis of Dutch, English and French Justifications for Limiting the Freedom of Public Officials to Display Religious Symbols

By Hana M.A.E. van Ooijen

Religious symbols are loaded with meaning, not only for those who display them. They have generated controversy in many circles, be they religious or secular, public or private, and within or outside academia. Debate has taken place throughout Europe and beyond, at times leading to limitations or bans of religious symbols. While this debate might seem whimsical in occasional flare-ups, it merits closer scrutiny, precisely because it is part of a long-running debate that crosses boundaries and touches upon larger underlying questions. This book singles out a particularly contentious issue: religious symbols in public functions, focusing on the judiciary, the police, and public education. It is often argued that public officials in these functions should be 'neutral,' which consequently implies that they cannot display religious symbols. The book unravels this line of thought to the core. It disentangles the debate as it has been conducted in the Netherlands, and it studies the concept of state neutrality in depth. Furthermore, the book appraises the arguments put forward against the background of three contexts: the European Convention on Human Rights, France, and England. It critically questions whether State neutrality can necessitate and/or even justify limitations on the freedom of public officials to display religious symbols. (Series: School of Human Rights Research - Vol. 58)


352 pages

Publication Date: 12/31/2012
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9781780681191