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Symposium on Religious Freedom as a Fundamental Freedom

Cardus Law explored themes of religious freedom at a conference held in December 2016 at Wycliffe College, in the University of Toronto.

Religious Freedom and the Common Good

Thomas F. Farr

Precis: Professor Tom Farr's clearly written paper traces for the reader the development of the idea of religious freedom in the American context from the founding days of the republic during the Enlightenment through to our times in which the very acceptance of religious freedom as a core principle in our society is under threat.

Farr argues persuasively that the United States' founding fathers created a system of religious freedom based on the free exercise principle that was genuinely new. This system recognized a public faith, one that reflected the interior faith lives of citizens in how they conducted themselves religiously in the public space. This was possible due to the conception held by the vast majority of Americans that they were a religious people, yet this historic understanding has shifted fundamentally. Farr buttresses this civic understanding of religious freedom with the Catholic understanding of religious freedom and its insistence on human dignity and conscience leading to an exploration of how religious freedom is exercised by faithful individuals and those self-same individuals existing as and operating within communities of faith.

Farr offers a clear warning around the growing intolerance for religious freedom in the United States in the face of non-discrimination laws and a rejection of religious freedom as being intrinsically bound up in the common good. This state of affairs has led to a collective forgetting of what religious freedom means. It is an amnesia that is hindering the United States' ability to engage religion when it confronts it in the world of international affairs.

Download: "Religious Freedom and the Common Good: The Importance of Religious Actors and Ideas in Public Life"

"How Religious Freedom Fits in the Public Square"
Thomas F. Farr in Toronto, December 2016:

"Rights of Conscience vs. Free Exercise of Religion"
Thomas F. Farr in Toronto, December 2016:

"Protecting Believers and Non-Believers"
Thomas F. Farr in Toronto, December 2016:

Full Interview with Thomas F. Farr in Toronto, December 2016:

Responding: Dr. Robert Joustra, Assistant Professor of Politics & International Studies, Redeemer University College:

Religious Freedom in a Multicultural Society

Faisal Bhabha

Precis: In examining the impact of recent judicial rulings on cases under Section 2a of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that enshrines freedom of conscience and religion, Faisal Bhabha draws our attention to how individuals' religious expression has been and is being accommodated within Canadian jurisprudence. Bhabha argues that the Supreme Court of Canada is striving in its decisions to reflect the multicultural nature of Canadian society by striking a balance between competing interests. In so doing, Bhabha posits, the Court is shifting from a posture of strong rights articulation to a weak rights application. The paper also highlights the emerging challenge of 'faithism'—a new form of discrimination increasingly manifested by public sceptics who ascribe negative characteristics or flawed values to people who profess a religious faith—and the impact that such discrimination can have on Canada's multicultural and multi-faith reality.

Download: "Religious Freedom in a Multicultural Society"

Watch: Faisal Bhabha in Toronto, December 2016:

Responding: Dr. Melanie Adrian, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University: