Department of Political Science


Theodora Kalessi

Research Student

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Provisional Thesis Title

Religious Freedom and Church-State Relations: What degree of establishment or secularism is compatible with a state’s commitment to uphold human rights standards?

The discussion surrounding religious freedom is accompanied by divergent conceptions as to what this right entails and of the proper relationship between state and churches. Despite all positive efforts of the international community to protect religious freedom as a fundamental human right, there still is considerable disagreement over its scope of application; the forms of belief to which it applies, and the restrictions it allows states to impose on it. Moreover, the fact that states assume different church-state arrangements for implementing religious freedom (ranging from religious establishment to secularism) has sparked a heated debate as to which one of these types is the most optimal for the realization of religious human rights. These concerns, lying at the heart of this project, give rise to two fundamental questions: a) what degree of choice on state principles, including establishment or secularism, is compatible with human rights ideals and b) to what degree religious freedom determines or is determined by state practices such as toleration and neutrality? Thus, the twofold aim of my research project is to understand the proper terms of the right to religious freedom and explore how different accounts of state discretion fit with human rights ideals.

General Research Interests

  • Theories of Human Rights
  • Neutrality
  • Toleration
  • Religious Establishment/Secularism