New York University The Interaction Between Politics and Religion in India Discussion


the interaction between politics and religion in India

Introduction: Of Liberty, Laws, Religion,
and Regulation
In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same as that for
religious rights. It consists in the one case of the multiplicity of interests, and in the
other in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend
on the number of interests and sects.
– James Madison, Federalist 51
on april 13, 1598, King Henry IV of France signed a remarkable document.
In a nation where the Roman Catholic Church reigned supreme, the Edict
of Nantes gave French Protestants – the Huguenots – a guarantee that
they would no longer be persecuted for their dissenting religious beliefs.
Although it did not provide the Huguenots with a legal status equal to that
of Roman Catholics, this document represented an important step toward
greater freedom of conscience in Europe. Unfortunately, it would not last.
Less than a century later (in 1685), King Louis XIV would rescind the
Edict of Nantes, an act that resulted in a rush of violence directed at the
Huguenots and the subsequent emigration of nearly four hundred thousand
French Protestants to various parts of Europe and the British American
colonies. Yet, while France was backtracking on its movement toward
religious liberty, a neighboring country was moving forward.
Across the English Channel in Britain, King William of Orange proclaimed
the Act of Toleration (1689), which marked a significant step
toward the gradual implementation of religious liberty in Great Britain.
The rapid expansion of dissenting Protestant denominations (e.g., Presbyterians,
Quakers, and Anabaptists) in England during the 1600s made
a policy of continued persecution costly and impractical. Efforts to curtail
the liberties of Catholics and Protestant dissenters early in the century
resulted in an extended period of internecine warfare that hindered economic
progress and made unification of the British Isles a difficult task. Not
only was the Act of Toleration a response to the religious strife that tore
violently at the fabric of English society during the seventeenth century,
but also it was a reaction to the growing religious toleration shown by one
of Britain’s main economic rivals – the Netherlands. Dutch Protestants,
having suffered persecution under Spanish rule, ensured that minority religions
were protected after the Netherlands gained independence in 1579.
Not only did this facilitate trade with other nations, enriching the Dutch
economy, but also the Netherlands served as a safe haven for religious sects
fleeing persecution in England. These religious refugees, which included
the famed Pilgrims, were often the most creative and industrious citizens in
their home nations; England’s loss was the Netherlands’ gain. The English
Toleration Act helped address this situation.
Ironically, although dissenting sects long fought for religious toleration
in England, some were rather hesitant to extend it to others in the
American colonies. The Pilgrims may have found a haven from persecution
by fleeing to America, but Quakers and Baptists did not fare well in
the Puritan strongholds of New England. Anglicans, too, were quick to
declare their religious dominion. Virginians were required to pay taxes to
support the officially established Church of England, a fact that the followers
of other denominations found to be quite distasteful. And Catholics
were never much liked anywhere in the colonies outside of their enclave in
Maryland. But by the dawning of U.S. independence, the environment had
shifted noticeably. The rise of religious pluralism and tolerance in Pennsylvania
pressured the New England assemblies to back away from the most
egregious forms of religious persecution. Beginning in 1776, the Virginia
Assembly suspended the payment of tax-supported salaries to Anglican
priests and placed the official status of the Church of England in limbo.
A decade later, a series of contentious debates in the Virginia Assembly
finally resulted in the passage of Thomas Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing
Religious Freedom, which eventually served as the template for the First
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Even Catholics witnessed improvement
in their legal and social status by the late 1700s. During the RevolutionaryWar,
colonial Catholics once derided as “papists” and “antichrists”
quickly became allies in the war against King George III. Nonetheless,
Catholics still remained on the “least tolerated” list of denominations and
faced ongoing discrimination throughout the nineteenth century.
Catholics fared better to the south in the Spanish colonies, albeit at
the expense of Protestant freedoms. Roman Catholicism was granted an
exclusive and privileged position in colonial Latin America. The Spanish
Crown guaranteed that only one faith would be permitted in its section
of the New World. Tithes were collected by the colonial government,
Church officials tended vast landholdings granted to them by the Crown,
and clergy were tried for misdeeds in separate ecclesiastical courts ( fueros
eclesi´asticos), where they often received more favorable treatment. The quid
pro quo for all of these benefits was that the Spanish monarch had the ability
to appoint Church officials and approve of papal decrees that would
apply to the colonies – a loss of religious freedom that the Vatican was
willing to pay for its advantaged position. Circumstances changed dramatically
for the Catholic Church in the decades following Latin American
independence. During the mid-nineteenth century, Church landholdings
were seized (often without compensation), and the rights of the clergy to
conduct and collect fees for marriage and funeral services were revoked.
Ecclesiastical fueros were abolished and priests came under the jurisdiction
of civil courts. By the turn of the twentieth century, a handful of Latin American
governments were allowing Protestant missionaries greater access to
their countries, though enforcement of religious liberty was highly selective.
Growing liberty and toleration throughout the mid- to late twentieth
century led to a Protestant “explosion” in several parts of the region.
The Mexican Revolution ushered in perhaps the most dramatic change in
church-state relations in Latin American history. The revolutionary constitution
of 1917 prohibited the Church (and other religious denominations)
from owning any property and clergy lost the right to run for office or
vote, effectively making them second-class citizens, a situation immortalized
in Graham Greene’s classic novel The Power and the Glory. Passions
ran high over this new church-state regime. Enforcement of these constitutional
provisions ignited a short-lived civil war in the country during the
late 1920s. However, conflict between the Church and state eased by the
1930s and by 1992 the Mexican episcopacy, with help from the Vatican,
compelled the government to rescind the most restrictive anticlerical provisions
in the constitution. These changes not only benefited the Catholic
Church but also helped non-Catholics seeking access to the country.
Anticlericalism wasn’t restricted to Mexico during the twentieth century.
The fates of religious groups under the yoke of Communist rule are well
known. Although it did not completely eliminate religious practice in Russia
and Eastern Europe, the Soviet regime implemented such highly restrictive
conditions on churches that religious participation became a rarity in most
of these nations. Then in 1989 the Berlin Wall crumbled. The Kremlin
no longer controlled Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union collapsed two
years later. Along with the process of constructing new democratic constitutions,
politicians throughout the region set about drafting laws governing
religious groups. Although the United Nations’ (UN’s) Universal Declaration
of Human Rights served as a general template for codifying religious
freedom in each country, the specific regulations emanating from the
policy-making processes varied quite substantially throughout the region.
In Russia, an initial regime of religious freedom gave way to restrictive legislation
that primarily favored the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) just
a half decade later. The most interesting irony of this legislation is that it
was supported by former members of the Soviet Communist Party who had
previously suppressed the rights of Orthodox clergy. Although the Russian
Orthodox hierarchy celebrated the new laws that came into being in 1997,
religious minorities heard the door to a promising new mission field slam
The Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia offer an instructive
comparison.1 Admittedly, these three nations differ in terms of their
religious and ethnic makeup and their historical experiences predating the
Communist era. Nonetheless, all three suffered under a similar repressive
Soviet rule devoted to reducing religious influence in society from the end
ofWorldWar II to 1990. The leadership arising from the ashes of Communist
rule in each nation faced a “blank slate” for writing laws regulating religious
groups. Yet the regulatory regimes taking shape by the mid-1990s differed
dramatically. Lithuania had one of the most aggressive activist groups
promoting religious liberty for Catholics and religious minorities (such as
Pentecostals) in the 1970s and 1980s, advocating their positions through
the largest underground publication in the Soviet Union – the Chronicle
of the Lithuanian Catholic Church. Yet when the newly independent Lithuanian
government finally instituted its laws governing religious bodies in
1995, Pentecostals (and several other prominent religious minorities) did
not make the list of nine officially recognized “traditional” religions receiving
special legal status. A concordat with the Vatican firmed up the preferential
status of the Roman Catholic Church five years later. Neighboring
1 I am deeply indebted to Cheryl Zˇ ilinskas for her knowledge, insight, and work on Eastern
European religiosity.
Latvia imposed similar restrictions on religious minorities, only providing
legal recognition for six traditional religions and not allowing more than
one organization within the same confession – that is, an officially established
church – to register, making it all but impossible for highly splintered
evangelical and Pentecostal faiths to gain equal status. Like their southern
neighbor, the Latvian government claimed that the influx of dangerous
sects was a primary motivation for its lack of flexibility with particular religious
groups. By contrast, as of 2006, Estonia – with a mix of Orthodox
and Lutherans and a smattering of other denominations – possessed no
officially recognized religion and maintains comparatively minimal requirements
for the registration of new religious communities, making it the most
religiously free country in the former Soviet bloc according to a recent Freedom
House ranking (Marshall 2000, 26). Despite this, the Estonian parliament
has considered tightening regulations on religious groups in recent
The aforementioned cases represent significant historical changes in religious
liberty. In most instances, the path has been toward expanded freedom
for religious organizations. But the march of religious liberty certainly has
had its setbacks over time, as witnessed by the revocation of the Edict of
Nantes and the 1917 Mexican Constitution.2 And a casual glance at nations
today reveals significant variation in the nature and extent to which churches
are regulated, as can be seen in the Baltic States. All of this raises a series of
important questions central to this book. What accounts for the origins
and development of religious liberty over time? How can we explain the
differences in the nature of laws regulating religions throughout countries?
Related to these questions, we must ask why governments would ever want
to place restrictions on the free worship of its citizens in the first place.
Why would politicians favor one confession over other denominations,
effectively guaranteeing a religious monopoly over a population? And once
a religious monopoly is established, what factors would motivate politicians
to deregulate the religious economy (i.e., introduce religious liberty)?
The issue of religious liberty garnered growing attention in the latter
decades of the twentieth century. The UN saw fit to reaffirm its commitment
to religious liberty in 1981 with Resolution 36/55, the Declaration on
the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on
Religion and Belief. Seventeen years later, one hundred fifty representatives
from various countries and religious groups gathered in Oslo to declare the
2 Even in the United States, perhaps the cradle of religious liberty, the cause of religious
liberty has arguably had its setbacks, a subject that will be examined in Chapter 6.
importance of religious freedom yet again. A plethora of nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) has arisen during this time to monitor religious
freedom throughout the world, including the International Coalition for
Religious Freedom, the International Religious Liberty Association, International
Religious FreedomWatch, the Religious Liberty Commission and
the Rutherford Institute (cf. Moreno 1996). Even the prestigious Freedom
House, which has monitored economic freedom and civil liberties since
1941, created a separate division specifically for monitoring religious freedom
in 1986 – the Center for Religious Freedom (cf. Marshall 2000).
Policy makers have turned their attention to the issue of religious liberty,
largely responding to pressure from constituents interested in the issue. In
1998, the 105th Congress of the United States passed the International Religious
Freedom Act (P.L. 105–292) requiring the U.S. Department of State
to provide an annual overview of religious liberty and persecution around
the world for consideration in foreign-policy making. It has factored into
debates surrounding the economic trade status of several countries, most
notably the People’s Republic of China (PRC) where groups such as the
Roman Catholic Church, various Protestant missionaries, and Falun Gong
have suffered serious persecution. Domestically, a series of U.S. Supreme
Court decisions throughout the 1990s prompted federal policy makers to
pass legislation aimed at specifically defining and protecting the rights of
religious individuals and institutions.3 Other countries such as Sweden have
substantially modified the way in which religious groups are regulated and
a number of other countries in Europe are trying to find ways to legally
incorporate the Islamic faith of immigrants into their highly secular societies.
Finally, the salience and increased visibility of religious-based conflict
at the beginning of the twenty-first century has served only to reinforce
our desire to understand all facets of religion, including the interactions
between church and state – the institutional nexus of religious freedom.
To date, however, few scholars have sought to explain the rise of – or,
more precisely, the change and fluctuations in – religious liberty in any
theoretically systematic way. Most studies have either emphasized the consequences
of varying forms and levels of religious liberty or regulation
(cf. Monsma and Soper 1997; Stark and Iannaccone 1994; Chaves and
Cann 1992), discussed the normative implications of varying interpretations
3 The two major pieces of legislation passed by the U.S. Congress were the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act (1993), which was declared partially unconstitutional by the Supreme
Court four years after its implementation, and the Religious Land Use and Institutional
Persons Act (RLUIPA) (2000).
of religious freedom (cf. Segers and Jelen 1998; Instituto de Investigaciones
Jur´ıdicas 1996),4 or provided detailed historiographies (cf. Curry 1986;
McLoughlin 1971) with little attempt to develop a generalizable theory
for the emergence of religious liberty throughout time and space. 5 Only
a few scholars – such as Roger Finke (1990),6 Charles Hanson (1998),7
and John Anderson (2003) – have attempted to provide theoretically developed
explanations for the rise of religious freedom, though each focused
on specific case studies and did not seek greater generalizability for their
ideas. Part of this general scholarly neglect can be attributed to the fact that
the answer to this puzzle (if it is considered a puzzle at all) is thought to be
obvious. The secularization paradigm, which has dominated social scientific
studies of religion until recently, appeared to provide the solution. From
this perspective, religious liberty was concomitant with religious pluralism
and a general decline in spirituality and was considered a natural outcome of
the process of social, political, and economic modernization. The question
about the origins of religious liberty was not seen as much of a question
at all. This book attempts to remedy the neglect of this important topic
by providing a general theoretical framework for studying the origins and
development of religious liberty.
Although the path toward religious liberty has often been considered a
natural outgrowth of more “modern” thinking (i.e., the triumph of Enlightenment
philosophy) over traditional thought, the overarching thesis presented
here argues that interests play an equally important if not more
critical role in securing legislation aimed at unburdening religious groups
from onerous state regulations. Specifically, I will focus on the political and
4 The normative literature on religious freedom, centering mostly on interpretations of
the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, is too voluminous to cite here. For the broad
parameters of the debate, see Clarke Cochran’s detailed preface to Segers and Jelen (1998).
Or, should the reader be more adventurous, I suggest a stroll down the BR and BX aisles
of any major research library.
5 There are several edited volumes such as Sigmund (1999), Helmstadter (1997), and van der
Vyver and Witte (1996) that deal with religious freedom in different eras and countries,
but the nature of these volumes – with different authors emphasizing different aspects of
religious liberty – make the promulgation of a reasonably unified theory difficult. This
should not be seen as a critique of these volumes as they provide a wealth of detailed
information in their own right. Moreover, had any of these works attempted to provide an
overarching theory of the origins of religious liberty, I would not be writing this book.
6 Finke’s article on the origins and consequences of religious liberty tended to focus more on
the latter than the former, though his initial thoughts on the topic of origins was a major
inspiration for this work.
7 Hanson’s explanation for why American colonists yielded greater tolerance to Catholics
during the Revolutionary War might be considered more of an emphasis on a particular
factor – the need to win French support – than a deductive theory.
economic interests of politicians (rulers)8 and the institutional interests of
religious leaders in the policy-making arena. As such, this book discusses
the political, as opposed to the intellectual, origins of religious liberty. This is
not to say that ideas are irrelevant when formulating policy; ideas do matter
as will be discussed in Chapter 2. However, when competing ideas exist in
society, it is often political interests that tip the balance of the debate in one
direction or another.
The interests at play in determining the nature of religious liberty come
from both the side of religious actors (church leaders, clergy, and parishioners)
and secular rulers (legislators, presidents, monarchs, and dictators).
Leaders of a dominant religion in society, I contend, are inclined to prefer
a regulatory regime that discriminates against religious minorities, making
it difficult for them to worship and/or gain converts. 9 In contrast, religious
minorities will favor regulations that make it easier for their clergy
and members to openly practice their faith and proselytize.10 The degree of
denominational pluralism in a society thus affects the likelihood that greater
religious liberty will prevail. A religious market with a plurality of denominations
(i.e., where no majority denomination exists) will be most favorable
to the expansion of religious freedom, something that James Madison recognized
in Federalist 51. An environment wherein religious minorities are
gaining significant ground will also be amenable to the growth of religious
freedom but not without conflict or attempts to restrict that freedom
by leaders of the dominant religion. Societies where one denomination is
hegemonic and religious minorities are of no consequence will tend toward
a highly regulated environment favoring the dominant church. The one
important exception to this latter situation is where political leaders see the
dominant church as a potential threat to their political survival and seek to
limit its societal influence. Such situations will also tend toward a highly
regulated (less free) religious environment that does not favor the dominant
church nor most other denominations.
8 The term politician will be used throughout the text in a generic manner to refer to any
type of political actor – be it a democrat or a dictator.
9 As will be noted in the following text, this discrimination can be subtle yet very powerful.
Although proclaiming favoritism toward religious freedom as a general principle, it is still
possible to favor microregulations that inhibit an upstart church from gaining foothold in
a certain area. Battles over land-use law and zoning regulations are common in religious
freedom cases.
10 The scope of this book is largely limited to religious liberty in Christian societies wherein
most of the religions examined are proselytizing. I realize that some faiths (e.g., Judaism)
and denominations do not aggressively seek members. Nonetheless, the arguments made
in this book still apply.
But religious leaders and activists are not the only ones who determine
the degree of religious freedom in society. The role of government officials
is essential too. After all, these secular rulers – be they democrats or
dictators – are the ones who put pen to paper and define the legal parameters
under which churches and their members operate. Understanding the
motives and incentives of these rulers thus becomes crucial in understanding
the origins of religious liberty. Moreover, policy makers do not make
laws and regulations on a specific topic in a vacuum; in other words, policy
makers often consider factors seemingly unrelated to the specific topic
under debate when passing legislation. This is important to realize considering
that many of the discussions related to religious liberty tend to
center on the moral arguments surrounding different legal configurations
of religious freedom (e.g., Harmin 2005; Pufendorf [1687] 2002; Segers and
Jelen 1998;Tierney 1996; Locke [1689] 1955).11 This leaves the impression
that the nature of religious liberty is the result of an intellectual (and often
esoteric) debate. To the contrary, I contend that political actors consider a
set of other interests when deciding how to regulate religion. Specifically,
I argue that politicians take into account their own political survival (i.e.,
ability to get reelected or stave off a coup), the need to raise government
revenue, and the ability to grow the economy when writing laws pertaining
to religious freedom. Whenever a rather restrictive set of laws governing
religious activity affects any of these three interests, secular rulers will be
more apt to liberalize regulations on religion – that is, promote religious
Defining the Scope of Religious Liberty
What constitutes religious liberty? As an outside observer, how can one tell
whether or not a country has religious freedom? This latter question is perhaps
misleading in that it assumes religious liberty is a simple dichotomy –
that is, it is something that a nation either possesses or does not possess.
Constitutional declarations pronouncing a “right to conscience” enhance
this perception that religious freedom is an “either/or” concept. In reality,
religious liberty is a large umbrella concept that covers a wide array of
policies that affect worshipers, clergy, and spiritual institutions. Methodist
Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, in a 1947 article for the magazine Churchman,
11 Again, this is most common in scholarly discussions about the First Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution and the various cases that have come before the U.S. Supreme Court
related to the subject of religion.
laid out what might be the best definition of religious liberty and helped to
elucidate the scope of policies that affect such freedom:
When we speak of religious liberty, specifically, we mean freedom of worship
according to conscience and to bring up children in the faith of their parents;
freedom for the individual to change his religion; freedom to preach, educate,
publish, and carry on missionary activities; and freedom to organize with
others, and to acquire and hold property for these purposes. (Cited in Stokes
1950, 20–1)12
What Oxnam reveals here is that religious liberty involves more than the
right of personal conscience; it includes a host of policies concerning property
rights, education, media ownership, and public speech. The ability of
congregants to come together, build a church, and reach out to nonbelieving
members of the community is an essential part of religious freedom.
Although religious freedom can certainly be framed in moral imperatives,
it is important to understand that religious liberty is a matter of government
regulatory policy and can touch on issues as diverse as citizenship
requirements and land-use restrictions.
From this point forward, I will view religious liberty as a matter of government
regulation. Thinking of religious liberty in regulatory terms has
several analytical advantages. First, following up on the work of scholars
studying regulatory policy, the analysis can be cast in terms of cost-benefit
analysis. Government policies impose various costs and benefits on different
individuals and groups. In a world where people have unlimited goals and
face scarce resources, any increase in cost can be thought of as a restriction
on one’s liberty; making some activity more expensive reduces the ability
of a person with fixed resources to pursue that activity. 13 For instance, a
12 The original citation is attributed to G. Bromley Oxnam, “Liberty: Roman or Protestant,”
Churchman (November 15, 1947). No page numbers provided.
13 I am aware of the argument that without a minimal restriction of liberty imposed by some
form of government, humans would be living in a Hobbesian state of nature wherein life
is solitary, nasty, brutish, and short. Such a world – free from all government restrictions –
would not be conducive to liberty at all given that we would live in a perpetual state
of fear of others. As such, some basic restrictions upon behavior – e.g., laws preventing
murder, theft, and jaywalking – are necessary for humans to realize a more comfortable
and expansive freedom. Institutions such as an independent judiciary are also necessary
to guarantee that freely made economic contracts are respected. In order to recoup the
costs for a government to provide the public good of security, it is necessary to coerce
citizens into paying taxes. Paying taxes is a restriction on liberty in an absolute sense, but
the sense of security that tax revenue buys does enhance our ability to enjoy freedom. The
optimal level of taxation needed to provide for basic public goods that allow us to enjoy
a comfortable freedom is up for eternal debate. Suffice it to say that I do not intend to
resolve that debate here.
regulation requiring auto manufacturers to produce cars that meet certain
mileage standards or pollution requirements limits the freedom of those
firms to build the cars that they want. It also limits consumer choice. Drivers
who prefer heavy and fast cars will have fewer options in the marketplace
when car makers produce only light, slow cars to meet the new regulations.
Moreover, the additional costs of making more fuel-efficient cars may mean
that some individuals will no longer have the financial means to purchase a
car and will be restricted to public transportation. A zoning law requiring
church buildings to be no more than a specific size (e.g., 20,000 square feet)
or located in a certain area are also likely to impact the abilities of clergy
to attract the number of adherents they would like to. Regulations impose
costs on Chrysler and Christians alike. Non-Christians are also subject to
onerous government regulations (cf. Fetzer and Soper 2005).
Second, conceptualizing liberty as a matter of government regulation
allows us to see the issue in multidimensional terms. Proclaimed freedom
in one arena may be cut short by restrictions in another policy area. A
government may allow its citizens to own land and build private houses.
However, land-use requirements or zoning restrictions may limit the ability
of people to choose where they want to live, how much of their land
they can develop (as opposed to leaving it in a natural state), and what type
of house they would like to build. Mandates on certain types of building
materials (e.g., slate roofing) or construction features (e.g., energy-efficient
windows) may also raise the cost of homes, thereby excluding some poorer
individuals from the housing market. Conceiving of liberty as a multidimensional
concept subject to numerous regulatory restrictions reveals that
liberty is not simply a dichotomous variable – that is, something you either
have or don’t have. A constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech does
not mean an absolute lack of restrictions on public speech. Laws punishing
slander, prohibitions on copying intellectual property, and restrictions on
campaign advertising all put limits on free-speech rights.
Understanding that religious liberty is multidimensional allows us to
conceive of it as existing on a continuum. Fox (2005), Grim (2004), Grim
and Finke (2006), Norris and Inglehart (2004), Barrett et al. (2001), Gill
(1999a), and Chaves and Cann (1992) have recognized this fact as they
have attempted to construct indices measuring religious freedom. Laying
aside whether these indices are adequately comprehensive, covering all
possible dimensions of religious liberty,14 they should be a reminder that
14 I should note that I have the utmost admiration for the efforts of all these scholars in
measuring religious freedom and my comment here by no means implies a critical attitude
toward their achievements. It is just that the mere fact of trying to capture every possible
subtle changes in any one dimension of religious freedom can move a country
toward greater or lesser freedom. It is not necessarily the case that countries
ultimately move toward greater freedom in a unilinear fashion, as
evidenced by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. A brief discussion of
the various areas of regulation affecting religious organizations and their
adherents will help illustrate the point that religious liberty is a multifaceted
concept and how such regulations impact the cost-benefit calculations of
religious individuals and institutions.
The broadest regulation relating to religious liberty would be a constitutional
declaration stating freedom of conscience. Most, but not all, nations
of the world maintain some statement of religious freedom in their constitutions.
Even countries like the PRC and Cuba provide a constitutional
guarantee for freedom of conscience, but it would be difficult to consider
these nations as bastions of religious liberty. To use a worn clich´e, when it
comes to religious liberty, the devil is in the details. Let us further examine
those details.
Regulations that affect the liberty of religious individuals and groups
can be grouped into two broad categories – negative restrictions and positive
endorsements of select denominations. The former category is relatively
self-explanatory and includes specific regulations telling certain (or
all) religious groups that they cannot undertake certain activities, making
it difficult for them to gather for worship or proselytize. Positive endorsements
of select denominations have a more subtle effect when it comes to
restricting religious liberty. Here, favoritism shown to one faith tradition
may make it implicitly more difficult for members of other groups to gain
new adherents, as will be shown in the following text.
Negative Restrictions on Religious Liberty
Throughout history, governments have found a number of ways to limit
the presence and/or expansion of “undesirable sects.” Simply banning religious
clergy from living in or entering a country is probably the most obvious
manner of achieving this goal. Immigration restrictions on Protestant
missionaries were common in Latin America during the first half of the
twentieth century (Pierson 1974, 177; Lodwick 1969, 103; Goff 1968,
3/27–36) and the current Russian and Chinese governments are careful
about handing out visas to individuals seeking to spread their faith. One
dimension of religious liberty is an extremely difficult task, and one that I avoid. Grim
(2004) constructs the most sophisticated of the indices. See also Grim and Finke (2006).
can clearly see how this would be a restriction of religious freedom; without
leaders, churches are unlikely to get off the ground. Such restrictions
also affect consumer choice and the ability of individuals to fulfill their own
freedom of conscience. If clergy from certain denominations are prohibited
from proselytizing, individuals who might prefer a certain type of religion
(e.g., Pentecostalism and Mormonism) will not be able to easily find a group
of like-minded believers. Such restrictions on consumer choice are difficult
to see in practice given that it is hard to determine whether a person has a
preference for a certain type of religion when that religion is not present.
How can one know that they enjoy evangelical Protestantism when no
evangelical Protestant options exist for them to try? Leaders of historically
dominant religions in a nation often resort to claims that a nation’s
populace subscribes only to one true faith and that prohibitions on foreign
sects are required to protect the citizenry from cultural contamination
(cf. Kuznetsov 1996; Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano 1984). This raises
an interesting dilemma. If one religion truly defines a national culture, and
people are deeply steeped in that culture, restrictions on foreign missionaries
would be unnecessary; the populace would reject the new sect out
of hand. In reality, such restrictions are often necessary because there is a
variety of preferences for different types of religion in a society and because
the dominant church has not done a sufficient job in capturing the loyalty
of the citizenry, leaving the “unchurched” ripe for the picking.15 In addition
to banning foreign religious personnel, governments have also been
known to ban some of the primary equipment of those missionaries. In
Latin America, many countries prohibited the importation of the Bible as
it was commonly used by Protestant missionaries to teach people to read
(Montgomery 1979, 89).
Once inside a country, politicians still control several policy levers that
allow them to raise significant barriers to the religious freedom of both
minority and historically dominant religious groups. Registration requirements
for churches are a common avenue for government leaders to discriminate
among denominations. Most governments require that various
groups – both religious and nonreligious – register with the government to
receive certain perquisites, which may include tax-exempt status, the ability
to be represented as a corporation in legal proceedings, the ability to
15 Kutznetsov does acknowledge that although the “Russian nation has traditionally been
Orthodox and considers itself belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church” (indicating
that there is a unified national religious culture) the religious soul of Russians had been
“spiritually weakened by the seventy-year onslaught of atheism” (1996, 10).
purchase property as a corporate body, and access to certain public institutions
such as prisons, state-run hospitals, and the military.16 After struggling
nearly a decade for a legal status that would put them on par with the
Catholic Church and give them access to prisons and the military, Protestants
in Chile finally obtained such recognition in 1999 (Isaacson 2003).17
In part, legal registration requirements are a matter of public safety. No
government to my knowledge is willing to allow the legal registration of
a religion that practices human sacrifice or may in any other way violate
basic civil laws. This reveals that religious liberty is not absolute. 18 But
beyond simply restricting groups that could do public harm, the nature of
registration requirements can subtly, yet significantly, affect the operating
costs of churches and hence their freedom to practice their faith. Some
governments mandate that a church must have a certain number of followers
before it gains legal recognition. Setting this number high can exclude
small startup sects or denominations that operate on a highly decentralized
and congregational basis (e.g., Pentecostals), as compared to groups that
have a more episcopal nature and can claim broad membership throughout
distinct subunits such as parishes (e.g., Catholics). For example, the Czech
Republic’s parliament, overriding a presidential veto, recently increased the
standards a church must meet for legal recognition.
[A] church seeking registration must submit a petition containing the personal
data and signatures of at least 300 Czech Republic residents. In order to obtain
additional specific rights, however, the church must have existed for at least
10 years and must have a membership equal to at least 0.1 percent of the
population of the Czech Republic. Priests’ confessional secrecy is protected
only after a church has existed for 50 years. (Pajas 2003)
Membership of 0.1 percent of the Czech population in 2003 would be
roughly equivalent to ten thousand adherents, a figure that even the largest
independent “megachurches” would have a difficult time achieving. Not
surprisingly this requirement favored the Catholic Church, the largest
16 Religious personnel frequently seek access to such public institutions. Oftentimes prisons,
hospitals, and military barracks are places where people need consoling due to stressful
situations. They also offer a potential recruiting ground for new converts.
17 I confirmed this in a number of interviews conducted in Santiago, Chile in 1999.
18 One of the problems with the short-lived U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993–
7) was that it allowed for the proliferation of nonmainstream sects and cults that maintained
practices allowing incarcerated felons to opportunistically avoid prison regulations or make
onerous requests upon penitentiary administrators. For examples, consult the following
U.S. District Court cases: Hamilton v. Schriro, 863 F. Supp. 1019; Rust v. Clark, 851 F.
Supp. 377; and Campos v. Coughlin, 854 F. Supp. 194.
religion in the Czech Republic.19 The inability to achieve legal status for
small or congregationally based groups may imperil their survival as they
would have to pay taxes (which are not an insignificant cost for organizations
that often rely on voluntary contributions) and might not receive permission
to obtain a church building. Governments can also set historical restrictions
on churches, requiring them to have had an institutional presence for some
designated period before granting them legal status. The 1992 legal reforms
in Mexico imposed such a historical requirement, putting many Protestant
congregations in a Catch-22 situation – in order to gain legal status church
groups needed to show they had a historical presence of five years, but such
a presence could not be easily verified because those organizations were not
legal before the reforms took effect (Gill 1999; Scott 1992a).20
Although allowing the legal presence of religious groups, governments
can also have a negative effect on religious liberty by banning specific
religious practices. In the infamous Smith v. Oregon case, the Supreme
Court ruled that the state of Oregon could legally prevent Native Americans
from using a sacramental drug (peyote).21 France currently prohibits
Muslim women from wearing the traditional head scarf in public schools,
and Turkey bans the wearing of Islamic head scarves in public institutions
altogether (Kuru 2006). Some have argued that prohibitions on prayer in
public school – whether it be a public prayer or time allocated for private
reflection – also violates the basic tenets of religious freedom by discriminating
against religion in general in favor of secularism (Monsma and Soper
1997, 33).22
19 Jews did not meet the 0.1 percent requirement because they are not numerous in the
Czech Republic and do not have an overarching organization. Nonetheless, the state
granted Jewish synagogues legal status because they were recognized by the state prior to
1989. Muslims have not received similar recognition to date. See U.S. State Department
20 See also Chapter 4.
21 The full title of the case is Smith v. Employment Division, Department of Human Resources
of Oregon, 484 U.S. 872. The actual issue being contested involved two employees who
worked for a drug rehabilitation center and were fired for using peyote during their off
hours. The employees were denied unemployment benefits because the firing was considered
just according to Oregon law.
22 This author, although admittedly a proponent of religious freedom generally, takes no
normative position on the issues of sacramental use of controlled substances or of prayer
in public schools. But even without taking a position, it is still possible – in a positivist
sense – to see how such prohibitions restrict religious liberty. One’s normative opinion
regarding the legality of a certain practice need not stand in the way of determining
whether criminalizing those practices would be a restriction of freedom. In this way, I can
both oppose human sacrifice on normative grounds and contend that making that practice
illegal is a restriction of someone’s religious freedom.
Property-rights regulations offer another means wherein the freedom of
churches can be restricted. Manipulation of property rights represents one
of the most common areas wherein government officials affect religious
liberty. As the quote from Bishop Oxnam reveals, the ability to hold and
use property as one sees fit is crucial to a church’s goal of serving its parishioners
and expanding its membership. This is crucial not only to religious
leaders who would like to construct church buildings but also for individual
believers who wish to have a place where they can meet on a regular
basis. Outright property-ownership restrictions on religious organizations
present an obvious example of a restriction on the freedom of churches, particularly
if other similar organizations (perhaps private nonprofit groups or
government services) are granted ownership. Turkey forbids private ownership
of mosques; all (officially recognized) mosques are closely regulated
by the state (cf. Kuru 2006). The same was true for Christian churches in
Mexico prior to the 1992 reforms. The inability of Catholics to build new
churches put costly limitations on the clergy’s outreach efforts. It was even
more difficult for Protestant missionaries who could only meet in rented
gymnasiums or someone’s private home. Such space limitations obviously
restricted church growth. In former Communist countries, the restitution
of church property seized by dictatorial governments has become a major
issue of contention and one that many clergy see as a fundamental issue of
religious freedom (F ¨ oldesi 1996, 250).
Although outright restrictions on property ownership for churches represent
fairly obvious violations of religious liberty, other more subtle property
regulations can be just as deleterious. Zoning laws may represent one
of the most frequently used forms of legislation used to curb the freedom
of churches. Simply dictating where a church can build, and how big
the building must be, can have a dramatic impact on church growth. In
the United States, zoning regulations have been used to prevent Jehovah’s
Witnesses – who require adherents to evangelize door-to-door – from constructing
church buildings near residential communities and from canvassing
neighborhoods.23 A 2001 moratorium on church construction in unincorporated
King County (Washington), followed by a size restriction of
twenty thousand square feet, drew such furor among religious leaders that
the county executive had to back down from his plan (Lewis 2001; Modie
2001). In Europe, obtaining the proper building permits for nontraditional
religious groups can take nearly a decade (cf. Fetzer and Soper 2005; Stark
23 See the U.S. Supreme Court cases Martin v. Struthers, 319 U.S. 141 (1943), Murdock v.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105, and Watchtower Bible v. Village of Stratton,
No. 00-1737 (2002).
and Iannaccone 1994). And in Latin America, local governments have been
known to block the construction of Mormon temples,24 prohibit loudspeakers
from being placed outside of Pentecostal churches, and prevent
evangelicals from parading around a neighborhood singing (Scott 1992b),
two techniques often used to attract new adherents (cf. Gill 1999b).
Ownership issues not only relate to buildings but also to media access.
Because many religions seek to “spread theWord,” possessing an efficient
means of spreading – through print or electronic media – is often crucial.
As Finke and Iannaconne (1993) note, changes in U.S. telecommunications
laws in the 1960s had a dramatic effect in advancing the evangelical
movement in the United States and giving rise to televangelism. In Latin
America, evangelicals have had difficulty obtaining broadcasting permits
for religious radio programs.25 The Mexican government maintained an
outright ban on religious broadcasting and other forms of media for most
of the twentieth century (Gill 1999c), and the regime of Juan Per ´on did
so selectively against Protestants for several years in the 1940s and 1950s
(Canclini 1972, 84–5). And the British parliament stirred controversy in
1996 when it promulgated a new law regulating digital media that excluded
religious groups from entering that burgeoning market (Blackman 2003).
Yet despite significant changes various evangelical groups still find it difficult
to purchase broadcasting licenses (Wilson 2003).
On top of all of this, governments can impose office-holding restrictions
on individuals, requiring them to be a member of a particular faith (or not
a member as it may be) to hold a public office (Hutson 1998, 62–3; Curry
1986, 79–80). This was quite common in colonial America where only
members of the Church of England in good standing were permitted to sit
on legislative councils. The same was true in parts of New England where
Puritans were the favored denomination. Likewise, Lutherans (or members
of the Reformed Church) were the only individuals who could hold civilservice
positions in the Nordic countries for most of the nineteenth century.
26 Until recently, the Argentine constitution barred any non-Catholic
(sometimes interpreted broadly as non-Christian) from becoming president
(Bonino 1999, 199), a situation that was mildly troubling for Carlos
Menem who was rumored to have an Islamic heritage (Marshall 2000, 56).
The situation was reversed in the former Soviet Union wherein known
membership in a religious organization was grounds for denying one access
24 “Temple Construction Blocked,” National Catholic Reporter (April 26, 1996), 7.
25 Interview with Paul Finkenbeiner, Director of Hermano Pablo Ministries, Costa Mesa,
CA (March 16, 1993).
26 I am grateful to Steve Pfaff for this observation.
to Communist Party membership. Given that membership in the Communist
Party was a necessity if one wanted to have improved housing and job
prospects, this requirement created a huge disincentive for affiliating with
any denomination.
All told, there are numerous regulations and requirements that increase
the costs of practicing religion on individuals and organizations. Any
increase in such costs due to government policy should be viewed as a
restriction on religious liberty, for better or worse.27 It should be remembered
that because most religions tend to be community oriented, any
restriction that raises the costs to a religious organization or institution
will have a negative impact on the individual members (or potential members)
of that group.
Positive Endorsement of Specific Denominations
Government policy in the religious arena not only centers on negative prohibitions
on groups but also can involve positive actions toward religious
groups. Such positive actions usually imply an official endorsement (beyond
the basic registration requirements noted in the preceding text), financial
subsidization, and/or some other form of public assistance in promoting
the faith. When all religious groups in a country are given equal endorsement
and/or equivalent subsidization (in proportion to their share of the
population) then no significant infringement on religious liberty exists,
although the matter of whether secular and atheist groups are included in
this mix becomes a sticky definitional issue. Monsma and Soper (1997), in
their examination of such policies throughout five nations, do make the
case that secularism should be considered akin to a religion. They further
note that in places like the United Sates secularism tends to get preferential
endorsement in the public square, whereas countries like the Netherlands
and Australia do a reasonable job in balancing religious and secular interests
in public policy.28
27 To reiterate, I do not take a normative stand here on whether a restriction of religious
liberty is good or bad. I simply seek to show that an increase in regulatory costs on religion
represents an infringement on religious liberty. Although I personally find the practice
of human sacrifice to be objectionable, government policies that forbid such practice are
considered a limitation on religious freedom. The same could be true of sacramental drug
use or other activities that governments deem unacceptable.
28 I would like to note that the work by Monsma and Soper (1997) provided a major impetus
for this current study. Their detailing of religious policies in five democratic nations, and
what that implied for religious freedom, was an eye-opening experience for me, and the
text remains one of my favorite works in the study of religion and politics.
It is possible, however, that positive endorsements of a specific denomination
(or denominations) to the exclusion of others can impose a significant
cost on the nonfavored faiths. For instance, some governments provide substantial
financial assistance to official state churches or to churches that have
had a long historical presence in the nation. These funds may be paid for
clerical salaries, church building maintenance, or other programs. This was
common in many parts of Latin America during the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries (Mecham 1966, passim). The administration of Juan Per ´on
even went so far as to purchase limousines for Catholic bishops (Sweeney
1970, 11), and the Argentine government to this day provides funds for
refurbishing Catholic churches.29 Although this may not seem to be a substantial
burden on any other religion’s religious liberty, it does contain an
implicit cost. If a portion of an individual’s tax dollars are being used for
the maintenance of a specific denomination, those individuals will be less
likely to join another denomination that will require them to pay (through
voluntary contributions) for the upkeep of that church. This goes under
the common economic principle that government subsidization of some
activity will have a “crowding out” effect of an equivalent service in the
private sector (Gill and North 2005; Hungerman 2005, 2004). An official
government endorsement of one religious group as a “state church” (e.g.,
the Church of England) could have a similar effect. The psychological or
social costs of associating with a dissenting sect could be significantly high
as to prevent some people from joining a denomination that they may more
likely prefer; if one decides to join a religion other than the official state
religion, they may feel less attached to that particular nation and may be
ostracized from their community.30
The issue of state-assisted tax collection poses a related issue in the realm
of religious liberty. Religious groups rely heavily on voluntary contributions
to pay their clergy and maintain their facilities (see Chapter 2) and therefore
often have difficulty in raising revenue (cf. Della Cava 1993; Harris 1993).
Having the help of the state with its coercive tax-collecting power can prove
to be an enormous asset to a church. If the state provides this service for
some historical religions but not other, particularly newer, denominations,
those “upstart sects” may have a hard time “up and starting.” Not only
would the new religious groups have to convince potential adherents that
29 Author’s observation of a sign outside of the Argentine National Cathedral (Catholic) in
Buenos Aires declaring that public funds were being used to renovate the building.
30 No study of this possible effect exists to my knowledge, but the relationship is possible. An
enterprising graduate student might consider this as a thesis topic worthy of exploration.
their “religious brand” is better but also they would have to convince those
same people either to pay additional financial contributions to the new
church or find a way to opt out of the current tax structure. Germany is
a case in point. The German government collects a mandatory tax from
individuals for the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church, the Catholic Church,
and Jewish synagogues (Monsma and Soper 1997, 173–4). Although it is
relatively easy to opt out of this system, it poses a similar (if not more direct)
set of incentives as public subsidization of religious groups – if I’m already
paying for one religion, why bother to join another? One of the disadvantaging
aspects of this type of policy is that it is difficult to implement for
congregationally organized or decentralized religions, such as Pentecostals
or Muslims. Monsma and Soper detail the problem and show how it can
create a situation wherein a government tries to impose a situation on a
religion that religious leaders don’t want.
The failure of the Muslim community to attain public corporation status [and
be eligible for tax collection], given the fact it is the third largest religious
community in Germany, is especially noteworthy. This failure is due, not
primarily to overt discrimination against Islam, but to the fact that the Muslim
organizational structure does not fit the prevailing German pattern. Both
the Catholic and Evangelical churches are hierarchical in nature and thus
they have centralized councils and leaders who can deal with centralized
governmental bureaucratic bodies and leaders. But Islam is not hierarchical
in nature. . . . This has led to an impasse, with German authorities for the
most part saying the Muslims need to organize themselves in such a way that
they can qualify for public corporation status and many Muslims saying the
Germans need to make allowance for their organizational structures. (1997,
A similar situation troubles leaders in the Netherlands.
Finally, the issue of public education is another key arena where public
favoritism toward one faith, even in an environment relatively free of
negative restrictions on religious minorities, can lower the general level of
religious liberty in society. One of the enduring principles in the sociology
of religion is that individuals who are steeped in a religious tradition
early tend to stay in that tradition as they mature (Iannaccone 1990). If a
government allows children to be taught one specific “brand” of religion
in public schools or if generic religion classes are only taught by the clergy
of a specific faith (a practice common in Latin America until recently), it
will become difficult for minority sects to recruit them later on. Although
imposing no normative claim on this practice, it is possible to see how
preferential access to public education given to one religion is viewed as a
significant disadvantage by other religions. Beyond schooling, governments
can also give special recognition to some religious marriages, but not others,
creating disincentives for lovebirds who might otherwise want to join
a different denomination from converting. Such was the case in much of
Latin America until the late twentieth century (Mecham 1966, passim).
The Separation of Church and State
It should be noted that up to this point I have avoided using the phrase
“separation of church and state,” which is frequently bandied about in conversations
of religious liberty. In the United States, Thomas Jefferson’s
famous “wall of separation” is frequently seen as commensurate with religious
freedom; the higher and more impenetrable the wall, the more religious
liberty supposedly exists. However, as Monsma and Soper (1997) and
Mary Segers (Segers and Jelen 1998) argue, a strong wall that excludes religion
from the public square can have the effect of privileging secularism
over religion in general, a potential violation of religious liberty. In more
extreme cases, such as the Soviet Union, an aggressive separation of church
and state can be consistent with severe restrictions on religious liberty. In
short, “separation of church and state” does not tell us much about the
differential costs and benefits imposed on religious groups and individuals,
which forms the primary basis for a definition of religious liberty here. For
these reasons, I will endeavor to avoid the phrase “separation of church and
Nor do I intend to address theoretically the issue of religious persecution
and harassment in this work. Although I provide instances of such persecution
in the discussion to come, I am not concerned primarily with the
psychological or social motivations that make one individual or group hate
another. My main concern is to understand why politicians would legally
commit themselves on paper to changing the way they manage religious
groups. The issue of persecution, if not a matter of legal policy, 32 raises
concerns regarding the enforcement of rules. This is a fascinating topic
31 There are instances in the discussion of Latin America where I will use the term separation
of church and state to indicate when a government ended official (often constitutional)
recognition of the Roman Catholic Church. Likewise, the term disestablishment as used in
the case of the United States will refer to a “church-state separation.” The separation of
church and state does not necessarily imply religious freedom.
32 Few countries to my knowledge actually have laws that state they will persecute religious
individuals. Even places such as Saudi Arabia and the PRC, which place severe restrictions
on certain types of religious practice, do not have laws that state they will physically harm
or harass dissenting sects.
unto itself – why do governments choose to ignore enforcement of laws
they have written down? However, my more immediate concern is with
official policy making, and I do not intend to devote much attention to the
important topic of persecution in so far as it relates to nonenforcement of
existing law. I do understand, however, that many religious groups consider
written legal restrictions on their behavior to be a form of persecution, so
in that regard I do address this concern.
Scope and Methodology
With the main topic and thesis of this work and a definition of religious
liberty out of the way, it is now time to elaborate on the goals of this book.
The primary intent of this book is to propose a general deductive theory
regarding the political origins of religious liberty that incorporates the role
of human agency through the use of rational choice theory. This theory
places interests, as opposed to ideas (or culture), at the center of the analysis.
Without denying a role for ideational factors (e.g., values, ideologies),
rational choice theory provides a useful starting point – the self-interested,
utility-maximizing individual – from which to build more complete theories.
Assuming that humans have some degree of control over their own
history (as opposed to having their actions predetermined by some structural
arrangement), it makes sense to begin with a theory that places human
agency at its core.
The success of building a general theory not only will rest on its empirical
accuracy but also will be determined by its ability to be applied widely
throughout space and time. This approach yields an immediate tension.
Placing emphasis on empirical validity and human agency pushes one in the
direction of “thick description,” wherein the specific actions of individuals
in unique historical situations become all-encompassing in the explanation.
Generality is hard to achieve because individuals (with varying interests
and calculating capacities) change over time, and historical situations
rarely repeat themselves exactly. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to assert that
humans behave in patterned ways, and any pattern is subject to generality.
Striking a balance is critical to gaining maximum explanatory “leverage”
(cf. King, Keohane, and Verba 1994; Lave and March 1975). The theory
laid out here attempts to strike such a balance by arguing that, in general,
political actors respond to changing opportunity costs that affect their
ability to remain in office and maximize revenue. It will be argued that
these are relatively ubiquitous goals that are shared by almost all political
actors irrespective of time or place. Laws pertaining to religious freedom
will be affected by how politicians respond to these changing opportunity
costs and some specific historical conditions. As for the latter, I will outline
a general set of conditions that appear to have a general impact on the
degree to which religions are regulated. I hope this theory will be useful as
a general framework for scholars examining specific cases and in building a
broader research agenda designed to examine the issue of religious liberty
(and “liberty” more generally) from a more theoretical perspective.
In terms of methodology, I will be employing a technique recently
termed analytic narrative (Bates et al. 1998). The point is to wed historical
description with a deductive theoretical framework that guides the historical
tales told. Given that I am interested in exploring the dynamic emergence
of religious freedom over time, this is an ideal method. Although I ama partisan
of quantitative methods in teasing out statistical relationships (cf. Gill
and North 2005; Gill and Lundsgaarde 2004; Gill 1999a), the subject matter
here is more amenable to qualitative methods. This is not to say that
religious liberty cannot be measured and examined in a quantified manner.
Several noble and informative attempts have been made in this direction
(Grim and Finke 2006; Fox 2005; Barro and McCleary 2004; Grimm 2004;
Gwin and North 2004; Norris and Inglehart 2004; Barrett et al. 2001;
Marshall 2000; Chaves and Cann 1992). However, given the focus and
spatial and temporal dimensions of this project, quantifying religious freedom
would not necessarily be fruitful. First, although the aforementioned
attempts to measure religious freedom are instructive, it remains difficult
to weigh the different components of the indices that different researchers
create. Who is to say that the relaxation of immigration restrictions on missionaries
is more important than altering the property rights imposed on
religious organizations? Second, and perhaps more importantly, the focus
here is on the political decisions to deregulate (or in some instances reregulate)
the religious market in whatever form that regulatory change may
take – whether it be altering registration requirements for religious groups
or rolling back financial subsidies to state churches. This study is rather
ambivalent as to which type of regulatory reform took place, although the
general realm of policy making (e.g., immigration law, property-rights regulations)
may be of historical interest.
The cases chosen here represent identifiable and significant changes in
religious regulation and provide a wide range of spatial, temporal, and cultural
variation to test a generalized theory regarding the origins of religious
liberty. The United States is an obvious place to start given that the U.S.
Constitution’s First Amendment represents a major landmark in the legalized
establishment of religious freedom (cf. Jaffa 1990). Nonetheless, events
in the American colonies and Europe prior to 1789 played a significant role
in shaping the interests involved in the emergence of religious liberty in
America. Latin America was chosen as a second area of examination because
the cultural, political, and economic conditions there differed substantially
from the United States. As compared to a country that arose amid an environment
of religious pluralism (the United States), Latin America came to
independence with a dominant religious monopoly – the Catholic Church.
The course of religious liberty in Mexico is given specific attention because
of the dramatic changes in religious regulations – from a period where the
Catholic Church was favored, to an era where extreme anticlerical laws were
enacted constitutionally, and, finally, to a general environment of religious
freedom for both Catholics and non-Catholics. Finally, I (with the help
of Cheryl Zˇ ilinskas) examine the former Soviet bloc, with a detailed comparison
of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The rise of
Communism in this region ushered in an era where religious organizations
were crushed under the weight of state control and attempts at annihilation.
Following the collapse of the Soviet empire, the independent nations
that emerged were faced with what were essentially a “blank slate” and
the task of writing new laws that regulated religious groups. No uniform
system emerged, and examining the variation throughout states comes as
close to a natural experiment that any social scientist studying history is going
to get.
My empirical examples are chosen primarily for historical interest. This
opens up the study for a critique based on biased case selection. The fact
that I restrict my examination to countries that are predominantly Christian
may also be a matter of concern for someone claiming the mantle of generalizability.
Likewise, even among Christian nations, I could have chosen to
examine a number of countries and historical situations to which I devote
little or no attention. The intriguing case of the Netherlands is given only
brief treatment in Chapter 3. Admittedly, it could have easily served as a
case deserving of a chapter unto itself. The reader can undoubtedly think of
numerous other examples that are not addressed here. Nonetheless, in the
spirit of Harry Eckstein’s (1975) oft-cited chapter on case studies, what I
hope to do here with my case selection is to show that the theory advanced
in the following chapter presents a plausible explanation for a wide span of
historical situations. Should this theory seem adequate to the reader, it is
hoped that it will inspire further case studies and other forms of methodological
inquiry. I welcome such inquiries and would be most enthused
by scholarly efforts to extend this research agenda into the non-Christian
The evidence presented in the case studies primarily relies on secondary
sources although some primary documentation and interviews are used.33
My extensive reading on the subject of religious liberty has shown me that
evidence for the theoretical hypotheses I wish to test are scattered throughout
historical literature. What I claim to do is not to discover these empirical
nuggets for the first time but rather to put them into a well-developed theoretical
framework and give the understanding of those facts some logical
consistency. This has been the methodology of some of my favorite works
in the social sciences, including Barrington Moore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship
and Democracy (1966) and Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity
(1996), One True God (2001), and For the Glory of God (2003). I can only
hope to aspire to the influence that their scholarship has inspired in me.
With all this stated, it is now time to explain the political origins of
religious liberty.
33 I decided to exclude the possibility of conducting interviews for my chapter on colonial
America with the reasonable expectation that many of the most interesting people that
should be interviewed are not talking anymore.
The Political Origins of Religious
The laws concerning corn may every where be compared to the laws concerning
religion. The people feel themselves so much interested in what relates either to
their subsistence in this life, or to their happiness in a life to come, that government
must yield to their prejudices, and, in order to preserve the publick tranquillity [sic],
establish that system which they approve of. It is upon this account, perhaps, that
we so seldom find a reasonable system established with regard to either of those two
capital objects.
– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations
in his time and day, the great political economist Adam Smith considered
laws regulating the conduct of religious individuals and institutions
as akin to agricultural subsidies and the free trade of grain. Since his
time, economists and political scientists have devised numerous theories
to explain the origins of free trade. But substantially less attention has
been paid to developing theories regarding the regulation and deregulation
of religion. This is perhaps understandable given that the preceding passage
from Smith’s classic work has all but disappeared from library shelves.
Abridged versions of The Wealth of Nations are quick to cut his musings on
religion.1 It was in these sections that Smith discussed the sovereign’s proper
1 These musings were developed in The Wealth of Nations, ch. V, pt. III, art. II and III.
role in maintaining public education and other institutions. Given the large
role that the Church of England had in the educational infrastructure of
Britain at the time and the fact that spiritual instruction was considered an
important part of the education for all Britons (schoolchildren and adults
alike), it was natural that Smith’s discourse on religion would be found in
that section of his book.
The theory regarding the origins of religious liberty proposed here is
inspired in large part by the writings of Adam Smith. As evidenced by my
conceptualization of religious liberty in Chapter 1 and the following text,
I declare kinship with Smith in seeing similarities in the laws regulating
religion and other forms of economic activity. Laws restricting religious
liberty should be conceived of as raising the costs associated with practicing
a religion just as tariffs are associated with raising the costs of economic
trade. The presentation developed in the following text, then, is rooted in
a classical (or perhaps neoclassical) economic view of the world wherein
interests predominate over ideas. This is not to say that ideas (including
values and moral imperatives) are irrelevant (a topic that I will briefly discuss
later in this chapter). Smith was a proponent of the important role of ideas
in his other major work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. However, I owe my
intellectual (but not blind) allegiance to a school of thought that economists
since Smith’s time have developed to study interest-based behavior and to
which Nobel Laureate Gary Becker has extended more broadly into the
social sciences – rational choice. Scholars such as Rodney Stark, Laurence
Iannaccone, Roger Finke, Steve Pfaff, Paul Froese, Carolyn Warner, and
I have extended the rational choice perspective to encompass the study of
It may seem odd to study religion from a rational choice perspective.
Mancur Olson, one of the great economists of the twentieth century who
helped extend rational choice theory to other social sciences, declared that
economics had little to say about religious groups and behavior (1965, 159–
61). Religion, after all, is about faith. It concerns itself with philosophical
(theological) ideas about the meaning of life and death and the moral
imperatives – the “shalls” and “shall nots” – that humans need to obey.
These ideas and moral directives guide the behavior of people adhering to
them and generally are not subject to empirical evaluation. And without the
ability to empirically evaluate those ideas, the behavior that results cannot
possibly be subject to the cost-benefit analysis of which economists are so
fond. Moreover, it may be the case that a firmly held religious belief may
2 See the bibliography for references to their work.
prompt a person to act against what otherwise might be in his best selfinterest.
A person may be discouraged from stealing money (a net financial
gain) by a religious belief even in a situation where the probability of being
caught and punished is zero. In other words, when people behave under
the influence of religion and religious institutions it is commonly believed
that they are not calculating the self-interested costs and benefits of their
Rational choice theory, at its essence, is simple.3 The theory assumes
that people have varying needs and desires – that is, preferences. Rational
choice has little to say about the content of those preferences. Some
people prefer to drive blue Jeeps to work, while others prefer pedaling red
bikes. Some people prefer to sing the praises of God for hours on a Sunday
morning, while others would rather stay at home and watch football. What
rational choice theory says, though, is that given those preferences, people will
try to achieve their goals (i.e., their preferential needs and desires) in the
least costly manner possible given the various environmental and strategic
constraints that they face.4 Everybody faces constraints; it is a fact of life.
No matter how rich a society or an individual is, there is never enough time
or resources to achieve everything we want in life. Rational choice theory
is concerned with analyzing how individuals make choices to achieve their
goals through a cost-benefit calculation determined by the constraints that
they face. As constraints change, so do the cost-benefit incentives faced by
different individuals, and hence the strategic choices they make.
Rational choice theory can easily be applied to religious individuals and
the institutions that they staff. Remember, rational choice theory says little
about the content of an individual’s preferences; it is incumbent on the
research to assume a reasonable set of preferences for the various actors
under investigation. In the case of religious behavior, we can start with
an assumption that priests and parishioners alike seek to learn about, live
according to, and possibly spread5 theWord of God. Not all individuals in
3 I have discussed rational choice theory more extensively elsewhere (Gill 1998, 193–202),
and there are a number of excellent summaries of the approach as pertains to religion
(Stark and Finke 2000; L. Young 1997; Iannaccone 1995).
4 Examples of environmental constraints include such things as one’s financial resources,
inherent skills, and limits on time. Strategic constraints involve the fact that other individuals
are trying to achieve goals that may or may not be similar to your own; the goaloriented
actions of others may affect your own cost-benefit calculations for achieving your
objectives. For instance, an incumbent politician facing a charismatic challenger may force
that incumbent to vote for certain policies to appease critical constituents; whereas the
incumbent may not have supported such policies in the past.
5 As will be discussed later, not all religions are proselytizing.
society will have these same goals, and many people who consider themselves
religious may share different intensities for achieving these goals.6
Nonetheless, this information can be worked into a rational choice account
of religious behavior. Once we make our assumptions about the preference
content of various individuals, our analysis focuses on the abilities,
resources, and constraints that face those individuals in their pursuit of
their goals.
Religious believers live in the real world. And life in the real world is constrained
in a number of different ways including limited time, money, and
other resources.Adevout churchgoer will have to make decisions about how
much time to commit to volunteer activity at church and how much money
to tithe given other commitments and budgetary constraints (cf. Azzi and
Ehrenberg 1975). Iannaccone (1990) demonstrates how church participation
is more likely to be time intensive (i.e., volunteering) when individuals
have low income earning potential (i.e., for youth or retired folks); people
in the prime of their professional careers show a higher propensity to participate
through financial donations. As the different demands on our time
change as we move through the life cycle, we often change the way we are
involved in religious organizations. Iannaccone also shows that in mixed
religious marriages, one spouse is more likely to convert to the other’s faith
as it simplifies the mundane costs of traveling to two different churches on
Likewise, a pastor seeking to increase attendance at Sunday services may
have different options available to him – for example, direct mail advertising,
hiring popular musicians, providing an extensive youth ministry, or building
more comfortable pews. Each option has different costs and is likely
to yield different outcomes (benefits). And each of them must be weighed
against one another in accordance to budgetary constraints.Trade-offs must
be made. Capital improvements on the actual church building might have
to be delayed while the pastor hires a youth ministry staff. Church leaders
must also consider the various costs and benefits of sending missionaries to
6 This relates to the concept of “price elasticity,” which asserts that individuals will react
differently to changes in price depending on how much they value or need the good. A
person who will do anything to live theWord of God can be considered someone who has
an inelastic demand for religion. If the price of one’s faith requires meeting with lions in a
Roman coliseum, they will be there. Such folks – often referred to as zealots or martyrs –
are often crucial to the early success of a religious movement (cf. Stark 1996, 163–90).
Somebody who has an elastic demand for religion will balk at the prospect of going to
church if there is a half inch of snow on the ground and the Steelers are playing an early
Sunday game.
different nations around the world, a fact that is illustrated by the presence
of Christian-owned firms that specialize in “missionary insurance.”7 If you
are seeking souls for God, you have to weigh the different payoffs between
sending missionaries to China or Saudi Arabia, where Christian proselytizers
are likely to be jailed or killed (and hence largely ineffective), or placing
them in countries like Uruguay or a more liberalized Hungary. In short,
just because religious individuals are people of deep faith and may be motivated
by desires that are hard to empirically verify (e.g., obtain salvation)
does not mean they are immune from worldly considerations of trying to
manage budgets and achieve goals.8
The benefit of rational choice analysis is that it begins by examining the
simple cost-benefit calculations and trade-offs posed under different conditions
(or constraints). When conditions change, we can readily calculate the
general changes in costs and benefits and predict how individuals may alter
their behavior. For instance, if long-term gas prices rise, we could predict
that consumers will switch to more fuel-efficient cars or ride public transportation
in order to save money.We could further predict that people with
more discretionary funds to spend (i.e., rich people) will be less affected by
increases in gas prices and hence will be slower to trade in their gas guzzlers
or jump on the bus. If real gas prices fall over time, our interest-based prediction
would suggest that people would switch back to less fuel-efficient
cars.9 If our prediction is not supported by the evidence then we might be
7 One firm is even called the Missionary Insurance Group, Inc. (
accessed May 15, 2007) and offers such services as policies that cover the price of cancelled
mission trips.
8 I often illustrate this to my classes with an example involving Mother Teresa, a person
most folks would recognize as being deeply spiritual and guided by altruistic motives. I
ask students to imagine that they are Mother Teresa and that they received a substantial
monetary reward from the Nobel Peace Prize committee – e.g., $1 million. I ask them
how they (Mother Teresa) would use that money. The students invariably come up with
a number of creative ideas, which we then evaluate for their effectiveness. Some students
say they would simply “give the money to the poor.” I ask them if they should give one
dollar to one million people or ten dollars to one hundred thousand people. They begin
to see the trade-offs involved. Other students suggest using the money to build a school or
improve a hospice. Each solution has a different set of short-term and long-term payoffs.
We then discuss which strategies would yield the greatest benefits, which is the essence of
cost-benefit calculation. MotherTeresa’s altruism did not exempt her from making difficult
decisions about how best to serve the poor.
9 This appears to have been the case between the 1970s and 1980s. As real gas prices rose in
the 1970s, smaller, more fuel-efficient cars became popular. But as real gas prices fell in the
late 1980s and 1990s, consumers tended to purchase larger sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
Had there been a general shift in societal attitudes toward more fuel-efficient cars, SUVs
would not have become as popular as they did in the 1990s. The underlying explanation
encouraged to consider other, nonrational choice explanations. The same
holds with religious and political leaders. As I will assert in the following
text, clergy and politicians possess a number of easily identified personal
and institutional goals that they seek to achieve. Given that theologies and
ideologies tend to be relatively resistant to change, particularly in the short
term, we would first look for some policy change to be the result of some
environmental change that has affected an individual’s interests. If behavior
changes in the predicted way according to the new environmental incentives,
we probably can attribute the change to interest-based behavior. If
behavior is not in accordance with the predicted interest-based calculations,
the role of ideas can likely be accorded with greater explanatory power. The
critical task will be to properly specify the interests of both religious and
political actors.
In this chapter I briefly review some of the previous perspectives on the
origins of religious liberty to keep the rational choice explanation advanced
here in perspective. I then propose a theory of why religious liberty would
emerge in a society based on a rational choice perspective.
Secularization, Modernity, and the Rise
of Religious Liberty
The primary alternatives to an economic approach to human behavior are
ideational and structural. An ideational approach emphasizes the (largely
independent) role of ideas in shaping conduct. Creative and thoughtful
people develop new ideas about how the world operates (through scientific
reasoning) or should operate (through normative argumentation). These
of this would appear to be that consumers like powerful engines that burn more gas but
are more willing to trade them for fuel-efficient autos when gas prices rise. An alternative,
ideational (i.e., nonrational choice) explanation for the switch to fuel-efficient cars in the
1970s would focus on shifting preferences. Rather than the high cost of gas and limited
household budgets being the cause for the shift, an ideational argument would assert that
individuals have shifted their priorities (or values) toward more environmentally friendly
vehicles. This, however, would create a difficulty in explaining the movement of consumers
back to SUVs in the 1990s, when gas prices fell. Of course, there is always the possibility
that a synergy exists between changes in external constraints and shifting preferences (cf.
Elster 1983) – e.g., high gas prices pushed individuals into fuel-efficient cars whereupon
those same people discovered that they preferred such vehicles. Sorting out that synergy
can be a difficult methodological task for researchers, so the usual approach is to hold one
of these elements constant (preferences) while allowing the other to vary (environmental
constraints) and make predictions based upon those changes. Should those predictions not
hold up to empirical scrutiny it would be incumbent on the researcher to investigate the
factor that was held constant.
ideas then are disseminated throughout society in some manner (e.g., news
media, parliamentary debate). If the new ideas are convincing to others,
traditional behavior patterns will change. For instance, if colonial American
Quakers developed a belief that slavery is immoral and argued forcefully
for its abolition, and if they were successful in spreading these beliefs,
the institution of slavery would have withered away.10 Structural explanations
emphasize large social processes and relationships that tend to have
automatic behavioral outcomes. Karl Marx was probably the preeminent
structuralist in that he argued the way a society produces and distributes
goods leads to certain social and political outcomes. To Marx, the logic of
capitalism and the profit motive drove employers to suppress the wages of
workers to the point where a proletarian revolution was inevitable. Other
structuralist theories have emphasized a variety of “large structural” variables
that influence behavior, including industrialization, urbanization, and
population growth.
One of the most dominant social scientific theories of religious behavior
in the past century – secularization theory – shares, in its various forms, elements
of both ideational and structural explanation (cf. Norris and Inglehart
2004). Not surprisingly, secularization theory has often formed the basis
for how we understand religious liberty and may be a reason why a general
theory of religious liberty has not been promulgated. To a large extent, a
general theory for the rise of religious liberty has not been advanced in the
social sciences largely because the reason for the spread of religious freedom
seemed to be rather obvious – it was the natural outgrowth of the secularization
process. Secularization theory, which dominated the sociological
literature on religion for more than a century, conditioned the scholarly
belief that religious freedom was the natural outgrowth of the demise of
spirituality in the public square. Commenting on the general state of the
field, Richard Helmstadter notes that
secularization, in the sense of putting the secular aspects of life at the center
and marginalizing religion, has been fitted into the master narrative as a
kind of extension of Protestantism, progress, and modernization. To see the
decline of religion and the secularization of society as inevitable, was . . . the
logical postscript to the narrative in which liberalism and religious freedom are
seen as predestined goals in the progress of mankind. (1997, 7; emphasis added)
10 Consider Rodney Stark (2003, 291–366). Although Stark is categorized as a rational choice
scholar, he undoubtedly recognizes the powerful role that ideas play in society and develops
a detailed theory of how such ideas can matter.
The “inevitable” and constant global process of modernization is seen as
the principal cause of religious freedom. From a structural perspective,
modernization produces greater functional differentiation of social roles
and results in a multiplication of state agencies and bureaucracies staffed by
experts and charged with specific tasks – for example, child welfare services,
mental health services, monitoring business practices, and environmental
protection. Traditionally, many monarchs and rulers relied on religious
institutions to provide many of these goods, and states would often support
these religious institutions.With the rise of the bureaucratic expertise
and the modern welfare state came the elimination of the public need for
church-provided welfare services. Separation of church and state became
the first step toward religious liberty (as it is difficult to have true religious
liberty where there is one officially sanctioned church). 11
At the ideational level, modernization purportedly coincides with a certain
set of values privileging the role of individual (as opposed to communal/
corporatist) choice. Such choice is not possible without freedom of
conscience. Jos´e Casanova summarizes this uniquelyWestern notion:
[R]eligious freedom, in the sense of freedom of conscience, is chronologically
“the first freedom” as well as the precondition of all modern freedoms. Insofar
as freedom of conscience is intrinsically related to “the right to privacy” – to
the modern institutionalization of a private sphere free from governmental
intrusion as well as free from ecclesiastical control – and inasmuch as “the
right to privacy” serves as the very foundation of modern liberalism and of
modern individualism, then indeed the privatization of religion is essential to
modernity. (1994, 40)
Other scholars have emphasized the development of particular theological
notions that justified the movement toward religious freedom. Historian
Fred Hood, for example, in explaining whyVirginia was the heart and soul of
religious liberty in the American colonies, argued somewhat paradoxically
that conservative Protestants, as represented by a majority of the Presbyterians
in Virginia, conceived of religious liberty as a religious dogma compatible
with an established religion and that the legal separation of church and state
did not alter that belief or its influence. The dogma of religious liberty emphasized
the Protestant belief that every man had the right to interpret the Bible
for himself and affirmed the authority of Scripture for the common life of the
11 See Monsma and Soper (1997) for the nuanced exceptions in Europe. Ironically, many
of the states that are considered to be highly secular still manage social welfare programs
through traditional confessions (e.g., Germany, Belgium).
nation. The government’s surrender of coercive powers in matters of religion,
while viewed as a less than satisfactory solution was nevertheless understood
as the acceptance of this religious dogma as the law of the land. (1971, 171)
If Hood is correct in his description of Presbyterian views during the late
eighteenth century, the logical pretzel twists needed to explain how a religious
establishment was compatible with religious freedom seem more of
a post hoc accommodation to a reality – religious pluralism – with which
Presbyterians were uncomfortable.
Consider alsoW. Cole Durham’s argument. He puts forth the idea that
the spread of Enlightenment philosophy (most notably that of John Locke)
was the principal determinant for religious freedom:
Contrary to what might initially be thought (and what had been thought for
centuries), Locke contended that respect for freedom of choice in matters of
religion (and more generally with respect to comprehensive world views) is
a source of both legitimacy and stability for political regimes. This insight
constituted a kind of Copernican Revolution in political theory. . . . Locke
revolutionized politics by suggesting how religious (and by extension, political)
freedom could sow political order from religious seeds that had always
been assumed to be the ultimate source of anarchy. The Lockean insight
thus opened up the possibility of seeing the political cosmos from a new perspective.
By placing respect for freedom at the center of the constellation of
values, and by recognizing that respect for freedom and dignity of individuals
is itself a moral and religious truth of the highest order, this revolution
transformed the grounds for legitimizing and stabilizing political communities.
. . . This idea was initially theoretical, but it became a central aspect of
the “lively experiment” with religious freedom in the United States. (1996,
Durham continues by noting that a general process of “globalization” (a
structural process caused by expanding technology) is facilitating the acceptance
of this ideal:
Growing consensus on religious freedom reflects a more general need to
address the reality of pluralism in the global setting. . . . [G]lobalization itself
is enhancing our sense of pluralism. . . . These patterns of global demographic
pluralism are likely to be conducive to religious freedom and application of the
Lockean insight into the stabilizing force of respected pluralism in much the
same way that American pluralism paved the way for meaningful institutions
of religious freedom two centuries ago. (1996, 11)
Other such explanations (cf. Chadwick 1975, passim; Sandler 1960; Pauck
1946) have a similar ideational and structural bent.
The ideational perspective of Hood and Durham is clearly echoed by
two legal scholars of the U.S. First Amendment – albeit with a focus on
different sources from where the notion of liberty came.
The American Founders were influenced greatly by theologians and philosophers
who reflected on the religious conflicts that occurred in the wake of the Reformation.
From Martin Luther and John Calvin they inherited the view that God
had instituted “two kingdoms” – a heavenly one where the church exercised
spiritual authority and an earthly one where the civil magistrates exercised
temporal authority. A liberal Roman Catholic tradition represented by Erasmus
and Thomas More also exerted influence in the colonies, inspiring the
Lords Baltimore and the Carrolls of Maryland to rethink the proper relationship
between church and state. . . . From [Roger]Williams, John Clarke, and
William Penn, the Founders learned that state control of religion corrupted
faith and that coercion of conscience destroyed true piety. From the theorists
Algernon Sidney and John Locke, they appropriated concepts such as inalienable
rights, government by popular consent, and toleration for the religious
beliefs of others. (Adams and Emmerich 1990, 3; emphasis added)
The term “rethink” is critical in the preceding passage as it reveals the
primacy that the authors place on the role of intellectual debate. McConnell
(1990) presents a similar view of why religious freedom developed most
extensively in the United States by arguing that Locke’s ideas combined with
evangelical thought during the First Great Awakening (ca. 1730–50)12 to
provide a more radical notion of “religious free exercise.” McConnell asserts
that the most fervent evangelicals (i.e., Baptists and Quakers) developed
“essentially religious arguments based on the primacy of duties to God over
duties to the state in support of disestablishment and free exercise” (1990,
1442). Combined with Locke’s more secular notions in favor of toleration,
this new evangelical line of thinking created a potent ideological milieu –
a perfect ideological storm, so to speak – in the American colonies that
helped shape the eventual drafting of the First Amendment. Marc Arkin
(1995) follows suit by emphasizing the influence David Hume had on James
Madison in the late 1700s.
It is also noteworthy that Adams and Emmerich recognize that theologians
and philosophers developed their ideas by looking at European religious
wars. This reveals that ideas do not necessarily pop up in a vacuum
isolated from harsh reality; ideas come from reflecting upon reality and, as
12 Scholars debate the exact beginning and end of the Great Awakening, though the most
fervent period of revival occurred with the wanderings of George Whitefield in the 1730s
and 1740s (see Finke and Stark 2005).
I will argue, reality is filled with self-interested behavior. Historian Charles
Mullett recognized how ideas were often the function of interests, specifically
in reference to the writings of the Enlightenment philosophers. “The
struggles for religious toleration in England show that this idea [religious
freedom], like others, cannot be treated in vacuo. No writer on liberty of
conscience, to be sure, failed to emphasize his belief in abstract toleration,
yet often the ideal was conceived in self-interest, born in faction, and grew
up amid indifference” (Mullett 1938, 24). In other words, political and social
context matters.
In contrast, Owen Chadwick, in his classic work The Secularization of the
European Mind in the 19th Century, places even more emphasis on the role of
ideas than Adams and Emmerich, downplaying the influenc…
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