Original Research

Godsdienspluraliteit en die liberale staat – die illusie van sekulêre neutraliteit

Francois Venter
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 50, No 1 | a2167 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v50i1.2167 | © 2016 Francois Venter | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 July 2016 | Published: 25 November 2016

About the author(s)

Francois Venter, Faculty of Law, North-West University, South Africa


Religious pluralism and the liberal state – the illusion of secular neutrality. Whereas church and state have long been separated since the emergence of the modern state, law and religion have not been separated and can never be separated. The notion of the liberal-democratic state, which is still dominant in legal thinking, induces state authorities to seek refuge in secular neutrality when confronted with religious issues to be resolved by law and judicial resolution. This article sketches the constitutional background, the undeniable relationship between law and religion, the standard liberal response to resulting difficulties and the dawn of a post-secular era. Examples are discussed from German, Canadian and South African jurisprudence that dealt with religious issues, leading to an assessment of the viability of secular neutrality. It is found that neutrality is unachievable. A suggestion is made that objective reciprocity founded on the teachings of Jesus and accepted as a universal human norm, independently of Christian teachings, may present an appropriate approach to avoid the dilemmas brought about by secularism. The implication of this analysis is that some firm arguments based on biblical justification have universal persuasive power, because they appeal to universal values also acceptable to non-believers and other religions. These arguments may be used in courts and by other organs of state for the resolution of religious matters that have legal implications in the pluralistic society of the 21st century.


religious pluralism; secularism; liberalism; reciprocity; religious education; objectivity


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