Constitutional contestation of religion in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s constitutional policy regarding religion affords a ‘foremost place’ to Buddhism obligating the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana, whilst assuring the rights and freedoms of the other religions. By explicitly creating a special status for Buddhism, it has produced the category of “The Other”. This distinction is discriminatory in a pluralistic society and undermines the fundamental principle of equality.

Analyzing the public proposals on religion and debates of the Constituent Assembly, this study retraces the evolution of the Buddhism Chapter and identifies the contestations and their role in drafting the religion provision in the new constitution. This is particularly salient given the interconnection of the religious and ethnic identity in Sri Lanka.

The study hopes to contribute to the public and scholarly debate on constitution-making in deeply divided societies embedded with intense discord on state’s religious and secular identity.