English summary

Reason, rights and religion - Kai Ingolf Johannessen

The role of religion in modern societies is a recurring theme in public discourse. This article asks what we should reasonably expect from religion in modern, well-ordered societies? The question is raised against a background of contemporary pluralism where competing conceptions of the good life and incompatible versions of religious truth may tend to hinder political co-existence as well as a shared commitment in matters of liberties and rights. It would therefore seem appropriate to attempt to bypass the greatest controversies between religions and worldviews in affairs of common interest. This article nevertheless argues that there are good reasons to seek for some dialectic way of relating and distinguishing between a religious and a political realm. Finding support in the recent philosophy of John Rawls this article argues that the concern for fairness, fundamental liberties and rights should be better off if endorsed from within various comprehensive views. Ways must be found to take the motivational resources of religion into account. But at the same time, the domain of politics, equal rights and social justice remains a "moral commonwealth". Religions and churches have normally no privileged insight into the worldly realm. Religious reasons might be decisive and strong, but in matters of politics and human rights they have to be justified on terms valid within the sphere of public reasoning.

Fundamentalism and legitimate paternalism - May Thorseth

This article argues that fundamentalism might be associated with Western, democratic and liberal values as much as with religious – in particular Islamic – values. Defined in procedural terms, fundamentalism is characterised by closure towards arguments and revision. Reasons why enforced argumentation about contested norms and values might be a form of legitimate paternalism are enumerated. Religious values are in focus, though the argument itself could apply to any moral value. The main argument is that no particular religious value is in itself fundamentalist. Freedom of religion is inconsistent with procedural fundamentalism, though it might require legitimate paternalism due to an internal relation between autonomy and legitimate paternalism. Drawing on Berlin’s distinction between positive and negative freedom the article claims that autonomy is closely related to positive freedom. Freedom of religion should be understood in terms of positive freedom, which implies that paternalism sometimes is required in order to safeguard this right of procedural fundamentalism. The article discusses some examples of special interest in Nordic countries.

Blasphemy, freedom of speech and freedom of religion - Ulla Schmidt

Should blasphemy be prohibited by law (as in current Norwegian criminal law) or should it be decriminalised, as an illegitimate infringement of the right to free speech (as the Norwegian governmental Commission on freedom of speech has proposed)? This article examines three arguments frequently offered in favour of the current legal situation: a) that a ban on blasphemy is demanded by the principle of freedom of religion; b) that blasphemy violates religious sentiments and identity; and c) that a ban on blasphemy protects important common values in society at large. It argues that although especially the two latter arguments provide strong reasons why blasphemy can be morally blameworthy, they do not support a legal prohibition against blasphemy. The main reason why freedom of speech should not be limited in this respect is that a legal ban on blasphemy prevents legitimate and necessary critique of and reflection on religion, its truth-claims and implications with respect to exercise of power.

Experiences with freedom of belief in Norway - Brynjulv Norheim jr.,

This article discusses the relationship between faith traditions and human rights, in particular the freedom of belief, in light of Roman Catholic experiences in Norway. The introduction criticises current trends that portray faith traditions as passive recipients of human rights whose sole duty is to legitimatise them. Rather, faith traditions need to reflect critically and conceptualise human rights in the language of their own theological self-understanding. In the part called “Roman Catholic experiences of freedom of belief in Norway” a study of years of official religious freedom in Norway shows how difficult it is for Norway to accept religious pluralism unconditionally and how previous arguments against Catholic groups are being re-enacted against Islamic groups today. In the part called “The Roman Catholic view on freedom of belief” a brief account is given of the Roman Catholic Church’s problematic path towards active acceptance of religious pluralism in modern times. The last part “Project Welthos – a conclusion” defends Hans Küng’s Global Ethic Project as a sounder way of securing belief in human rights today on religious premises.

Democracy and freedom of belief in Sweden - Malin Wimelius

This article discusses and analyses freedom of religion and democracy with regard to the situation of Swedish Muslims. Religion in Sweden is primarily perceived as a private matter, which might explain why displays of Muslim religiosity in public is somewhat problematic. By exploring the Swedish debate concerning the slaughter of animals by halal-methods and the building of mosques, the article addresses issues surrounding of citizenship, power and influence. It is argued that the debates on animal slaughter and mosques seem to a lack any references to freedom of religion. It is therefore necessary to analyse how and why problems in current public and political debates are defined in a way that excludes aspects related to freedom of religion.

Christian knowledge and religious and ethical education - Andreas Føllesdal

The school subject “Christian Knowledge and Religious and Ethical Education has a content and educational structure suited to the education of children in the Christian faith. It is difficult to interpret government intentions other than as a wish to give children an education in the Christian faith.This is apparent not least in the stipulation in the curriculum plans that pupils should learn the Ten Commandments and Christmas and Easter carols and hymns by heart, and the recommendation that they sing hymns in class. This means, however, that the subject is in violation of principles in relation to the use of state power in situations where there is widespread lack of public consensus, for instance in the area of religious education.