Osgoode Colloquium on Law, Religion & Social Thought


Elizabeth Shakman Hurd

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The promotion of religious freedom is ubiquitous. An impressive array of states and international authorities has taken up the cause of promoting religious freedom globally. The Canadian government is a recent example. This talk steps back from the excitement surrounding religious freedom advocacy to examine the power of religious freedom and the politics of governing social difference through religious rights.

Religious freedom advocacy singles out groups for legal protection as religious groups; molds religions into discrete “faith communities” with clean boundaries, clearly defined orthodoxies, and senior leaders who speak on their behalf; and privileges a modern liberal understanding of faith. This has important implications for the politics of religious diversity, and particularly for dissidents, doubters, and those who identify with nonorthodox versions of protected traditions.

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