Religious freedom historical perspectives
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Religious Freedom: Historical Perspectives. Gary B. Doxey International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU June 23, 2011. Lord Acton, 1834-1902. [F] ree government . . . can only be the fruit of long, manifold, and painful experience.

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Religious freedom historical perspectives

Religious Freedom:Historical Perspectives

Gary B. Doxey

International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU

June 23, 2011


Lord acton 1834 1902

Lord Acton, 1834-1902

[F]ree government . . . can only be the fruit of long, manifold, and painful experience.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.


What is religious freedom

What is Religious Freedom?


Tension between competing ideas

Tension between Competing Ideas

  • A dynamic of history since ancient times.

  • Often in the form of old versus new ideas.

  • Tension greatest when ideas challenge authority.

  • E.g., Galileo Galilei, 1564-1642.


Quick personal observations

Quick Personal Observations

  • Religious freedom is a very rare thing in human history.

  • Its price has usually been very high.


Religious freedom in history four patterns of evolution

Religious Freedom in History: Four Patterns of Evolution

  • Conversion of a ruler who proclaims freedom of belief and practice for the new religion – often replaced in the next generation by intolerance for the old religion.

  • Religious conflict (really exhaustion from conflict) leading to a modus vivendiof some tolerance.

  • Introduction of new ideas through trade, proselytism, conquest, or immigration, resulting in attitudes of pluralism.

  • Intellectual and political commitment to freedom.


The traditional narrative of freedom the reformation

The Traditional Narrative of Freedom:The Reformation

Luther Calvin


Miquel servet 1511 1553

MiquelServet, 1511-1553


Sebastian castellio 1515 1563

Sebastian Castellio, 1515-1563

  • His ideas on tolerance resonate positively today

  • “To kill a man is not to protect a doctrine, but it is to kill a man.”


The division of christendom

The Division of Christendom


1530 1648 a century of war

1530-1648—A Century of War


Schuilkerk or hidden church

Schuilkerk or “Hidden Church”


Treaties the original western european form of religious freedom law

Treaties: the original Western European form of religious freedom law

  • Peace of Augsburg (1555)

  • Union of Utrecht (1579)

  • Peace of Westphalia (1648)


Peace of westphalia 1648

Peace of Westphalia, 1648


The rule

The Rule

Cuiusregio, eiusreligio

Whose region, his religion


The age of enlightenment

The Age of Enlightenment


The enlightenment and revolution

The Enlightenment and Revolution

Locke Jefferson Madison


Colonial american pluralism

Colonial American Pluralism


Old prejudices slow to give way

Old Prejudices Slow to Give Way

Anne Hutchinson on Trial


A revolutionary break

A Revolutionary Break


Religious freedom historical perspectives

Since the Constitution


Declaration of the rights of man 1789

Declaration of the Rights of Man, 1789

“No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.”


Modern international human rights

Modern International Human Rights


The universal declaration of human rights 1948

The Universal Declarationof Human Rights, 1948


Toward a competent history of religious freedom

Toward a Competent Historyof Religious Freedom

  • Elements of “myth,” in a positive sense, are in the historical narrative

  • Careful and thoughtful, more nuanced study and analysis are needed

  • The need for appreciation and understanding of religious freedom is great “Lest we forget.”


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