Original Research - Special Collection: Law and Justice Conference

On doing what is just, right and fair: Essay on a Dutch example

George Harinck
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 54, No 1 | a2646 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v54i1.2646 | © 2020 George Harinck | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 June 2020 | Published: 21 December 2020

About the author(s)

George Harinck, The Neo-Calvinism Research Institute, Faculty of Theology, Theological University, Kampen; Department of History, Faculty of Humanities, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands


The 1848 Constitution of the Netherlands guaranteed civic freedoms within the frame of liberalism. In practice, this meant that the public sphere was not open to orthodox Protestants or Catholics. Abraham Kuyper changed this situation by accepting wholeheartedly the liberal maxim of the separation of church and state, but he rejected the exclusion of religion from the public sphere. He succeeded in changing the political climate and opened up a public sphere that was plural in nature, not open just for liberals, but for every citizen, whatever religion or worldview he had. This public regime was implemented in the late 19th century, and lasted until the 1970s. Then a new regime was implemented gradually. Religion and religious minorities were downplayed in a public sphere that was dominated by moral permissiveness and individual self-expression. This regime was challenged by Islam, and at present the debate is on the issue if a religious culture that denies individual freedom can be tolerated in a liberal democracy. This is a déjà vu of the debate Kuyper generated 150 years ago.


Abraham Kuyper; Constitution; Neo-Calvinism; Democracy; Liberalism


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