The second half of the 20th century has seen a world-wide rise to power of supreme and international courts which, based on constitutional rights provisions, exercise review over legislatures and adjudicate conflicts between governments and individuals. This lecture discusses the extent to which judicial politics have contributed to institutional secularization in Europe, by transforming historically path-dependent church-state-relations, weakening the legitimacy of selective governmental favouritism toward religious majorities and strengthening the equal rights of religious minorities. Presenting evidence from case-law at the European Court of Human Rights as well as selected domestic constitutional and lower courts since 1990, it is argued that the various arrangements of state, nation and religion in Europe, facing increased and partly migration-driven religious diversity, have indeed come under pressure within an emerging transnational field of human rights law. While country-specific outcomes have depended on complex constellations of litigants’ resources, judges’ justificatory repertoires, and political elite interests, the general trend has been towards both recognition of religious diversity and greater state regulation of religion.
Matthias Koenig is professor of sociology at the University of Göttingen and Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen. He received a doctoral degree from the University of Marburg and a habilitation from the University of Bamberg. He held visiting positions at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes, the University of Toronto and the University of Michigan. His current research focuses on religious dimensions of immigrant integration and on socio-legal dynamics of governing cultural diversity.