33 (0)1 49 60 40 66

Reshaping the Sovereign.
The Concept of Sovereignty and Contemporary Religions

sous la direction de Philippe Portier

 

 

Le 1er décembre 2017 à 9h00, à l’EPHE- Maison des Sciences de l’Homme – Salle 15 – au 54 boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris.

 

 

Composition du Jury : 

 

Mme Cécile Guérin-Bargues, Professeur de Droit Public à l’Université Paris Nanterre (rapporteur)

Philippe Portier, Directeur d’études à l’EPHE (directeur de recherche)

Pierre-Henri Prélot, Professeur de Droit Public à l’Université de Cergy-Pontoise

Gianfrancesco Zanetti, Professeur de Philosophie du Droit à l’Université de Modena et Reggio Emilia

 

 

 

Abstract: 

 

In the last few decades, the delicate geo-political equilibrium has contributed to a new wave of studies on the concept of sovereignty. When addressing its new configurations, scholars usually investigate the economic and financial global actors and how they affect the exercise of sovereign powers. But such approach is characterized by an unjustified lack of consideration of a parallel phenomenon: the “return” of different global actors with their ancient normative traditions, namely religions.  In the attempt to fill this gap, this research addresses the interaction between the concept of sovereignty and religions from the legal-philosophical and legal-theoretical viewpoint. Indeed, it tries to explain how contemporary religions may actively take part in the “sovereignty game” with their legal traditions and normative production. Moreover, within my theoretical study I also try not to underestimate the importance of certain descriptive or sociological data and the relevance of court decisions and regulatory frameworks. In order to accomplish this task, I formulate my analysis according to the following articulation.

Chapter 1 provides a conceptual and historical overview on different models of sovereignty and pays close attention to the contribution of religion and religious actors from the XVI century onwards. In particular, it focuses on the development of two normative models of sovereignty: the Westphalian model and the United Nation Charter’s model. With reference to this latter, it argues that the category of human rights represents a crucial normative opportunity for contemporary religions, enhanced by the process of globalization. 

Chapter 2 adopts a peculiar perspective on sovereignty and contemporary religions: the legal normative perspective. It explains in what sense and to which extent sovereignty, as a normative concept, might be applied to both religions and States. It concentrates on the European legal order at large (that is, the political system under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights) and articulates possible levels of exercise of sovereignty towards religions. In so doing, it points out a distinction between three partially interconnected levels: the institutional level, the personal level, and the bios level. This analysis aims at shedding light on the contemporary structure of sovereign functions concerning religious issues.

Chapter 3 suggests a shift in perspective in the light of the normative-theoretical account of chapter 2. Indeed, it theoretically scrutinizes the category of human rights in the attempt to explain the strategic role of religious normative systems in their justification and protection. In particular, it distinguishes between three intertwined levels of commitment of religions and religious bodies to the human rights regime: the political, the foundational, and the hermeneutic one. With reference to the latter, it focuses on one specific human right, as a test-bench for the exercise of competing normative sovereign functions: the right to freedom of conscience. As a case study, it faces the awkward case of religiously grounded exemptions on the part of public officers in the celebration of same-sex marriages or unions. It argues that the contrast between the fulfilment of legal obligations connected with particular public offices and the fulfilment of moral obligations to be consistent with religious norms identifies the domain of what I call “ the ultimate sovereignty”. 

 

 

Keywords: Sovereignty, religions, human rights, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, constitutional rule of law.