(A16) The Ethos of Religious Liberty. Political-Ethical and Theological Dimensions

According to Friedrich Wilhelm Graf, “even in the knowledge-based societies of the 21st century”, religion “will remain to be a vital power, both ambivalent and vital alike, of cultural socialisation, a resource of both individual formation of identity and of collective creation of meaning alike, ignored only at the cost of a severely punished loss of reality”.

The controversial dispute about the social role and significance of religion(s) and about their actual or assumed dangerousness has a depth that, considering the phenomena of ideological and religious globalisation, affects the understanding of the fundamentals of social coexistence. In addition, that dispute shows substantial intersections with the epoch-making debate about the relationship of freedom or rights of freedom and the security or need for security in liberal societies under the conditions of global insecurity.

At the same time, the social controversies about status and public claims of religion expose the “cumbersome” core (H. Bielefeldt) of the right to religious liberty for the religious groups themselves, insofar as religious truth claims and civil rights of freedom may not necessarily have to come into conflict with one another, but considering the cause as such, they can definitely only coexist with some friction.
The research project aims to

  1. identify in socio-ethical terms for society, state and religious groups the provocations of the human right of religious liberty and to reflect their ethical core problems, in order to then
  2. develop the contours of an ethos of religious liberty for the context of ideologically and religiously pluralistic European societies; while at the same time
  3. providing an exemplary exploration in terms of the socio-cultural and socio-political potentials of (the) Christian church(es) for the process of the European unification with the help of the key question of religious liberty.

The project deals with the relationship of religious liberty as a right and as a socio-ethical challenge in two parallel ways: on the one hand, relating to the “inside” of the (constituted) religion, on the other hand, relating to the legal framework for the free practice of religion in religiously and ideologically pluralistic societies.
Therefore, the project is organised into two legs focussing the topic from different directions.

  • (A) From the “inside” of religion: The effects that the acknowledgement of the right of religious liberty by the churches themselves have as a provocation concerning the coherence and consistency of religious doctrine and (institutional) practice will be investigated, as will the demands on the ethos of the individual and collective practice of religion arising from these effects.
  • (B) From the “outside” of religion: Primarily on the basis of relevant decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court, the preconceptions in law – as the institutional regulation of free practice of religion − that are used to have recourse to religion will be investigated, as will be the qualities, dynamics etc. that are attributed to the religions or religious players in the process and also how this harmonises with a theological understanding of religion (from a Christian point of view).