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Title: Godsdienstvrijheid in balans
Author(s): VAN DER VEN, Johannes A.
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Theologie
Volume: 49    Issue: 4   Date: 2009   
Pages: 346-372
DOI: 10.2143/TVT.49.4.3203480

Abstract :
In pre-modern and early modern periods, the majority's relation to the minority was marked by asymmetric tolerance to prevent a greater evil, social unrest. The modern period replaced this tolerance with the symmetric right to freedom of religion covering all people, religious or not. However, in times of social stress, people tend to take recourse in the tolerance that has remained graven in collective memory. As clarification, section a describes Augustine's and Thomas Aquinas' pre-modern views of tolerance as well as Milton's and Locke's early modern views. Section b treats the right to freedom of religion with a view to exercising individual and collective, private and public, personal religious or non-religious convictions and to their manifestation in worship, teaching, observance and practice. Section c reports on an empirical investigation among Christian, Islamic and non-religious Dutch young people, 1054 in number. They were asked two questions about freedom of religion: to what extend did they agree with 1) the prohibition against political interference in religious life and 2) prayer in public schools. The majority of Muslims agreed with the prohibition, while a majority of the Christian and non-religious young people rejected it. Furthermore, all three groups agreed with prayer in public schools. In section d agreement with prayer is regarded as approval of extra-curricular prayer. The young people chose for a pragmatic approach to the separation of church and state and reject a separatist interpretation. Agreement with the prohibition of political interference among Muslims is understandable as a desire to preserve their own religious and cultural identity. In rejecting this, the two other groups opt for asymmetric tolerance of Islam because it tramples on important constitutional principles such as a right to change religion and equal treatment of women and homosexuals. This is a case of partiality, because similar situations in the Catholic Church are ignored. This partiality can be neutralised when de facto priority for freedom of religion over other human rights is abolished and by submitting the cases where freedom of religion and other human rights clash to an impartial judge. Only then can religious freedom be put into balance.

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