Freedom of Religion and the Invention of Tradition

McFaul, Hugh (2018). Freedom of Religion and the Invention of Tradition. In: Giles, Jessica; Pin, Andrea and Ravitch, Frank S. eds. Law, Religion and Tradition. Law and Religion in a Global Context, 1. Springer, pp. 119–133.



This chapter will consider the significance of invented traditions to the relationship between law and religion. Drawing on the work of Eric Hobsbawm, it will explore the view that traditions can be manufactured and will seek to demonstrate how states can regulate and control minority religious groups by the construction of conceptions of traditional and non-traditional religion. Reference will be made to a number of recent cases heard before the European Court of Human Rights which show how the accommodation of religion can depend upon law and policy makers choosing to recognise certain beliefs and practices as religious beliefs and practices and, in certain contexts, this recognition is contingent upon religious groups acquiring legal personality. Achieving this recognition has proven to be problematic for some minority religious groups. This is particularly the case in ex-Soviet States where minority religions are sometimes perceived as non-traditional loci of foreign influence.

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