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COMMENTS 

Brexit in the Supreme Court: Your Questions Answered

The Supreme Court will be the centre of political attention this week when the government’s appeal of last month’s High Court ruling on the triggering of Article 50 is heard. Robert Hazell and Harmish Mehta offer an overview of what the case is about, the likely outcome and its implications for the Brexit timetable.
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Starts: Dec 5, 2016 12:00:00 AM

The Constitution of Democracy

Albert Weale argues that the Article 50 case did not represent the judges against the people, as some newspaper headlines suggested, but the judges for the people. More...

Starts: Nov 18, 2016 12:00:00 AM

The Brexit Brokers

Meet the people who will deal the cards that could seal Britain's fate - on Europe's behalf.
Uta Staiger and Nicholas Wright (UCL)
18 November 2016
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Starts: Nov 18, 2016 12:00:00 AM

Ronan McCrea on secularisation in Europe

19 June 2013

Contrary to popular belief, Muslim migration is making Europe more secular, not less.


"The European relationship between religion, law and politics is a strange creature. Religious influence over political life is weaker in Europe than in almost any other part of the world. To adapt the phrase first used by Alastair Campbell when he was spokesman for the British prime minister Tony Blair, politicians in Europe generally ‘don’t do God’. The EU’s Eurobarometer surveys of public opinion suggest that religion has a very limited impact on the political values and behaviour of European voters. Europe has no equivalent to the politically powerful religious right in America, nor to the theological debates in the political arena that one sees in many Islamic countries.

Recently, however, this long-standing distance between religion and politics has been threatened. Migration is one factor that has helped religion to return to centre stage in public life. While Muslim minorities have protested over questions of blasphemy and free speech, Catholic leaders have intervened in political debates about gay marriage and abortion, and conservatives have lamented that European societies are losing touch with their Christian past. The political scientist Eric Kaufmann has argued that religious believers have a demographic advantage in birth rates that will see Europe's secularisation reversed by the end of this century.

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[However], what we see is a general process under which greater religious diversity is making it difficult for religion in Europe to retain the residual political and symbolic roles that it has had until now. These roles relied on religion being seen as a national cultural symbol, and on implicit understandings that churches would largely steer clear of politics and would not use their legally privileged status to restrict criticism or mockery of religion to too great a degree.

Such a system is proving unsustainable. There are now too many diverse cultural expectations about religion, its role in political life, and the degree to which it can be criticised or mocked. The more muscular religiosity of some migrant communities, among other factors, is provoking European governments to restrict religion firmly to the private sphere, and to render the public sphere a strictly secular one. Perhaps, as Giuseppe di Lampedusa wrote in his novel The Leopard (1958), ‘everything must change so that everything can remain the same."

Read the full article in Aeon magazine.

  • Ronan McCrea is a barrister and a lecturer at the Faculty of Laws at University College London. His latest book is Religion and the Public Order of the European Union (2010).