Secular States Struggling with Religious Freedom

04 - 05 May 2023

ISFORB Conference

Secular States Struggling with Religious Freedom

Location : ETF Leuven

Language : English

The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is officially acknowledged and often constitutionally fixed by the countries, which value the UDHR. Its implementation, however, happens in various ways. If, how and to what extent liberal societies can and should on this basis accommodate religious differences, remains debated: some secular states seek to ensure religious freedom by building a “wall of separation,” some position themselves as an “even-handed helper.”

This third international conference, organized by the Institute for the Study of Freedom of Religion or Belief (ISFORB), aims to give attention to struggles of secular states with the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief. As usual, this topic will be addressed from an interdisciplinary perspective and attention is given to both theoretical considerations and practical implications. Scholars are welcome to contribute to a comprehensive discussion on the subject from a legal, sociological, historical, theological, or other disciplinary viewpoint.

During our two-day conference we will be looking at topics such as a) the notion and different interpretations of the secular state and its relation to (non-)religious paradigms; b) various models of legal provisions and practices of religious policies on the backdrop of the socio-cultural and historical situatedness of different countries; c) issues of presentation of religious communities by state actors and governmental patterns of categorisation and labelling of religious difference. The topics will be introduced in plenary papers and academic discussions.

Keynote speakers

To date, the following keynote speakers have agreed to contribute to the conference:
• Prof. Dr. Jonathan Fox (Bar-Ilan University)
• Prof. Dr. Archil Metreveli (University of Georgia)
• Prof. Dr. Johan Temmerman (FPTR Brussels)

Other researchers join this conversation and present papers on each of these sections or related topics. Academically interested practitioners are also warmly invited to participate in the conference.

Preliminary Conference Program

Thursday, 4 May 2023

9:00-10:00 Arrival, registration & coffee
10:00-11:30 PLENARY SESSION 1
Mutual introductions I
How Secular and Religiously Free are Europe’s “Secular” States?
Prof. Dr Jonathan Fox (Bar-Ilan University)
12:30-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:15 PLENARY SESSION 2
Ideological Challenges of Religious Freedom to Secular State Politics and Jurisdiction
Prof. Dr Johan Temmerman (FPTR Brussels)
18:00 Conference Dinner (Optional)

Friday, 5 May 2023

8:00-9:00 Breakfast (Optional)
9:30-10:15 PLENARY SESSION 3
The Freedom of Personal Self-Determination: the Essential Principle of Religious Manifestation
Prof. Dr Archil Metreveli (University of Georgia)
12:45-13:45 Lunch
13:45-14:30 PLENARY SESSION 4: the GAPS conversation
15:45-16:00 PLENARY SESSION 6: Closing words

*A detailed conference program can be downloaded here.

Practical Information and Registration

The conference will take place in the Leuven Center for Christian Studies, St. Jansbergsesteenweg 95-97, 3001 Leuven, Belgium (at the premises of ETF Leuven).

Conference fee
Because socializing, peer discussion and networking are key aims of this conference, regular participation in the conference includes two lunches and several coffee breaks. The regular fee for this inclusive participation is € 120. PhD students can participate with a reduced fee of € 80. ETF Leuven MA students can participate for € 30 (excluding meals). Participation in the conference dinner costs € 35.

Leuven has a broad variety of hotels in different price categories.
A limited number of rooms are available at our conference center LCCS. With single occupation, the rooms cost € 48 per night (breakfast included). For information, please contact .

Register now by filling in this form.

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