Barry and Kukathas as Inspiring Sources for a Fair Church-State System in Belgium

Leni Franken, Patrick Loobuyck


In this article, we will look at the political philosophical theories of Brian Barry (Culture and Equality, 2001) and Chandran Kukathas (The Liberal Archipelago, 2003) and see which consequences both theories have for the Belgian model of church and state. For both authors, the liberal state should be neutral toward religion but they interpret this neutrality in a different way. According to Kukathas, neutrality implies a hands-off policy and therefore, recognizing and financing religions is out of the question. For Barry on the other hand, the state is neutral if equal people have equal opportunities. Consequently, state support for religions and even the recognition of religions is possible, if religions are treated in the same way. However, a hands-off policy is also in line with Barry’s theory. Both from a pragmatic and from a normative point of view, Barry’s egalitarian liberalism seems the most interesting theory as an inspiring source for the evolvement and modification of the Belgian system, towards more fairness and equality.


Barry, Kukathas, egalitarian liberalism, libertarianism, recognized religions, religious education, church and state policy, Belgium, equality, neutrality

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