Litigating Religions

Religions are a problem for human rights, and human rights are a problem for religions. And both are problems for courts. This paper, based on a recently published book, presents an interpretation of how religion and human rights interrelate in the legal context, and how this relationship might be reconceived to make this relationship somewhat less fraught. It examines how the resurgent role of religion in public life gives rise to tensions with key aspects of human rights, in particular freedom of religion and anti-discrimination law, and how these tensions cannot be considered as simply transitional. The context is the increasingly troubled area of litigation involving religious arguments, concerning religious dress at work, conscientious objections by marriage registrars, admission of children to religious schools, prohibitions on same-sex marriage, and access to abortion. To address these problems requires changes both in human rights theory and in religious understandings.