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This article surveys some of the philosophical problems raised by the various ways in which religion and politics may intersect.
Rather than emphasizing the distinctively political benefits of establishment, a different version of this argument could appeal to the ethical benefits that would accrue to citizens themselves as private individuals.
For example, on many understandings of politics, one of the purposes of the is to ensure that citizens have the resources necessary for living a choiceworthy, flourishing life.
Of course, a different version of this argument could simply appeal to the truth of a particular religion and to the good of obtaining salvation, but given the persistent intractability of settling such questions, this would be a much more difficult argument to make.
Against these positions, the liberal tradition has generally opposed establishment in all of the aforementioned forms.
The second pair of sections is devoted to problems that, for the most part, have come to the fore of discussion only in recent times: (3) liberal citizenship and its demands on private self-understanding; and (4) the role of religion in public deliberation.
While the topic of establishment has receded in importance at present, it has been central to political thought in the West since at least the days of Constantine.Similarly, liberals often argue that fairness precludes devoting tax revenues to religious groups because doing so amounts to forcing non-believers to subsidize religions that they reject.A different approach for liberals is to appeal directly to the right to practice one’s religion, which is derivable from a more general right to freedom of conscience.In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, European societies wrestled with determining exactly what roles church and state should play in each other’s sphere, and so the topic of establishment became especially pressing in the early modern era, although there was also substantial discussion in the Middle Ages (Dante, 1995).The term “establishment” can refer to any of several possible arrangements for a religion in a society’s political life.From the perspective of many religious people themselves, moreover, there are worries that a political role for their religion may well corrupt their faith community and its mission.As European and American societies faced the growing plurality of religious beliefs, communities, and institutions in the early modern era, one of the paramount social problems was determining whether and to what extent they should be tolerated.These arrangements include the following: Note that these options are not mutually exclusive—a state could adopt some or all of these measures.What is central to them is they each involve the conferral of some sort of official status.If all people have such a right, then it is morally wrong for the state to force them to participate in religious practices and institutions that they would otherwise oppose, such as forcing them to take part in public prayer.It is also wrong, for the same reason, to force people to support financially (via taxation) religious institutions and communities that they would not otherwise wish to support.