Religion in the public sphere: is there a common European model?

Radu Carp


In order to see whether there is a common European model that gives a place to religion in the public sphere two issues have to be taken into account: first, if there is a theory of secularization that accurately describes the current situation of European societies and second if, there is a European model on Church – State relationship. The first part is dedicated to the different accounts on secularization that may be applied to European countries: the classical Weber theory that view secularization as an “iron law” of any society, the institutional secularization, secularization as the decline and adequacy of religious practice, the continuation of the classical theory in the 60’s and beyond, the criticism of this theory and the particular argument of the increase of fundamentalist religious movements. The attempts to formulate new theories on secularization based on other assumptions than the classical one are also presented. The increased presence of religion in private life does not mean a decrease of religion in the public space but rather a new definition of it. Despite the different intensity of belief in national terms, some trends like “believing without belonging” are common, meaning that secularization could have a single meaning in Europe, apart from other continents. The second part starts with presenting the three types of Church - State relationship at the national level. All these have in common the fact that the state is neutral towards religious subjects, a religious subsection is singled out within the public sphere and the state has the right to intervene in this area only as an arbiter. There is already a European law on religion and this statement is supported by examples from the Lisbon Treaty, The Charter of Fundamental Rights, different Directives and decisions of the European Court of Justice. Common rules on religion agreed at the European level helps better to understand why there is a common European model on religions, different from the national models. After taking into account the two aspects described above, a common European model on religion in the public sphere emerges as a necessary conclusion.


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