‘Prayers, Planners and Moral Panics: Protecting the Rights of Minority Religious Groups’

Alice Diver, John Thompson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The concept of religious freedom frequently looks to a wide range of ‘facially neutral’ domestic measures for its translation into an effective right to worship freely; it is not surprising that such local-level regulations tend to favour the majority population and are perceived by disaffected minorities as yet another institutionalised aspect of unspoken ethno-cultural prejudice. The right to engage in worship is frequently vetoed by the various bureaucratic institutions that serve as focal points for economic and political power within Western jurisdictions. Where the State’s permission is required to use or acquire land on which to construct sacred premises, religious freedom may be further constrained by administrative adherence to Eurocentric or overtly secular policies; such provisions are, in turn, often subject only to lax judicial scrutiny. Whether case law concerns the hurried passing of ad-hoc bye-laws designed to prevent minority religious rituals in Florida, the citing of parking ordinances to prevent minority students using a Mississippi campus building for prayer, the ‘grandfathering’ of local cemeteries in favour of Judaeo-Christian burials or the open-ended delays and moral panics surrounding planning permission for a Northern Ireland Mosque, the act of public worship by minority groups seems to present a worrying challenge to majority populations and ruling elites. The modern inequities of Western statutory frameworks and local government policy are therefore perhaps aimed at quietly perpetuating those colonial ‘blemishes of the past’ which sought active ‘Christianisation’ of ethno-religious minority groups.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReligion, Human Rights and International Law: A Critical Examination of Islamic State Practices
EditorsJ Rehman, S Breau
PublisherMartinus Nijhoff Publishers
ISBN (Print)978 90 04 15826 9
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2007


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