What sorts of constitutional solutions could reconcile the protection of human rights with the demand for religious accommodation in contemporary democratizing or democratic states? The challenge of crafting a democratic constitution under conditions of deep disagreements over the state's religious or secular identity is the central concern of this research group. The main objective is to bring together constitutional experts and scholars working on religion-state relations in a variety of country contexts in order to determine how different constitutional modalities of addressing religion may contribute to, or detract from, the progressive achievement of human rights. As tensions over religion-state relations are gaining increasing salience in contemporary processes of constitution writing and re-writing around the world, the research group proposed here will draw on a broad range of case-studies of past and current constitutional debates revolving around disagreements over the state's religious or secular identity. The place of religion in public life is intrinsically related to the fundamental question of human rights protections for women and vulnerable minorities, among others, that constitution drafters must address.
For centuries, constitutional designers and interpreters have looked beyond their shores to discover in the practices of other nations possible sources for emulation. Traditionally, western constitutional imagination has relied on the narratives of the constitutional process of the United States and the French Revolution on both procedural and normative grounds. Recent and current projects of writing or re-writing democratic constitutions, however, offer constitution-drafters a broader range of arrangements that balance religious accommodation with human rights. By analyzing constitutional debates in societies divided over the religious or secular identity of the state, the research group will pursue in-depth cross-country comparisons that will contribute to developing empirically grounded theories about constitutional arrangements on the relationship between religion and state and their consequences for attaining human rights standards-something by and large absent in the fields of law and political science.
The Fellows invited to take part in the proposed project are world-renowned experts in their field. Based on their preliminary archival and field research which will be done prior to their arrival at ZiF, Fellows are expected to engage in a comparative analysis of the various case studies and complete their publications.
The publications, in particular an edited volume resulting from the research group, shall offer valuable lessons for societies soon to embark on constitution-drafting or amendment processes where human rights shall be guaranteed but where religion is an issue of contention. Cases in point are Egypt and Tunisia, where Islamic law will be part of the new regimes' constitutional law, but also Israel where exemptions for religious groups (core curriculum in state-funded schools, military draft) remain a major bone of contention, and Turkey, where the ruling religious party is intent on a constitutional amendment that, many expect, will enhance the role of religion in public life. The target audience of the volume will include legal scholars and social scientists, legal and constitutional advisors, policy analysts at human rights NGOs, international organizations, and ministries of justice in countries undergoing constitutional change. The volume will represent a unique and valuable contribution to the existing literature because of the scholarly quality of the case studies, based on primary documents in local languages, the policy-oriented focus of the volume, and the wide number of cases that will be studied, many of which remain underexplored and have not yet entered the mainstream literature.