In the past two decades, there has been much talk in political theory about the role of religion in the public sphere. The resulting discussions of public reason and its limits, secularism and disestablishment, the nature of toleration, and the scope of religious exemptions have been invaluable. For many theorists, however, the fundamental worry remains: can the tensions between the demands of liberalism and the obligations of faith be negotiated? Or will containing—or constraining—religion within the bounds of a liberal polity always infringe upon the freedom of conscience ostensibly at liberalism’s core?

Today, these concerns have only grown in the face of new and pressing practical challenges, and our theories of public life and religious diversity must evolve to meet them. The increasing diversity of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices; the phenomenon (and fear) of ‘religious extremism’; the complex interplay between religions, gender, and sexuality; the many different ways that social institutions engage with religious practice, all call for new thinking in political theory.

This conference will explore what the next steps should be for research on religious diversity and public life by bringing perspectives from political theory, philosophy and the history of political thought to bear on the pressing political questions of our age. Through it, we hope to generate new understandings and original proposals that will set the agenda for new research avenues in the field of religion and politics and provide a forum for critical discussion.




Keynote Speakers


  • Joseph Chan, Professor of Politics, University of Hong-Kong

  •  Cécile Laborde, Nuffield Chair of Political Theory, University of Oxford

  • Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President and chief executive of the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi



Alternatives to secular liberalism


Chair: Andrew March, Associate Professor of Political Science, Yale University


  • Patrick Gnanapragasam, Professor & Head, Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras, India: “Religious Diversity and Public Life: Factoring in ‘Virtual Religious Publics’"
  • Sushmita Nath, PhD Candidate, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, & Leipzig University, Germany: “Between ‘Faith’ and ‘Discovery’: Examining M.K. Gandhi’s Religious Politics”
  • Karim Sadek, Assistant Professor at Alliance of Civilizations Institute, Ibn Khaldun University, Istanbul, Turkey: “Towards Non-Secular Liberal Radical Democracy”


Politics of minority religious communities


Chair: Jonathan Seglow, Reader in Political Theory, Royal Holloway University, London


  • Mahmoud Bassiouni, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany: “Islam, Toleration and Free Speech”
  • Margot Dazey, PhD Candidate, University of Cambridge, UK: “Conveying Revivalist Islam: a French Case Study”
  • Elise Rouméas, PostDoctoral Research Associate, University of Oxford: "Religious diversity in the workplace: a normative assessment of Alternative Dispute Resolution"


Democratic accommodation


Chair: Jocelyn Maclure, Professor, Université Laval, Québec


  • Aurélia Bardon, Junior Professor in Political Theory, University of Konstanz: “Neutrally Justified Laws and Skepticism about Religious Exemptions”
  • François Boucher, Postdoctoral Researcher, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada : “Political Secularism and Religious Institutionalism: Justice and Jurisdiction”
  • Roland Pierik, Associate professor of legal philosophy, University of Amsterdam: “Accommodation through Exemptions. A Case Study of Childhood Vaccination Waivers Accommodation”


Gender and sexuality


Chairs: Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, Director of the Hadassah Brandeis Institute at Brandeis University and Sylvia Neil, Lecturer in Law, University of Chicago


  • Coleen Auxéméry, PhD candidate, University of Limoges, France: “Religious diversity and the cunning of progressive sexualities in Europe”
  • Christoph Baumgartner, Associate Professor of Ethics, Utrecht University: “To shake hands or not to shake hands religious diversity and non-coercive, reciprocally transformative accommodation”
  • Michael Lesley, Doctoral Candidate, Harvard University: “Debating Circumcision, Religion, and Rights in the Once (and Future?) Christian Europe”




Chair: Adam Swift, Professor of Political Theory, University of Warwick


  • Cristóbal Bellolio B., University College London (UK) - Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (Chile): “Religious Neutrality and Science’s Demarcation Problem”
  • Lars Nickolson, PhD Candidate, University of Amsterdam: “From Liberty to Equality: Putting a Normative Shift in Context (or: the demise of the freedom to discriminate)”
  • Andrew Shorten, Senior Lecturer, University of Limerick, Ireland: “Religiously Selective School Admissions: Corporate Religious Freedom, Parental Choice and Freedom of Association”



“Religious diversity, political theory and theology”


Convenors: Jonathan Chaplin, Director of the KLICE, Cambridge and Paul Billingham, Junior Research Fellow, University of Oxford


  • Luke Bretherton, Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke University
  • Julie E. Cooper, Senior Lecturer in Political Science, Tel Aviv University
  • Christopher Eberle, Professor of Philosophy, United States Naval Academy
  • Mohammad Fadel, Associate Professor, Faculty of Laws, University of Toronto
  • Kevin Vallier, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Bowling Green State University
  • Erin Wilson, (Director, Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain, University of Groningen)


  • Anne Guillard, PhD Candidate in Political Theory, Sciences Po Paris
  • Joshua Ralston, (Lecturer in Muslim-Christian Relations, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh)


‘Lockean’ Toleration and the Politics of Religious Freedom”


Convenors: Teresa Bejan, Associate Professor of Political Theory, Oxford and Benjamin Hertzberg, Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Emory University


  • Paul Bou-Habib, Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Essex
  • Rainer Forst, Professor of Political Theory and Philosophy at Goethe-University, Frankfurt
  • Chandran Kukathas, chair of Political Theory and Head of Department, LSE
  • Ruth Marshall, Associate Professor, University of Toronto
  • Elizabeth Pritchard, Associate Professor of Religion, Bowdoin College


  •  Sarah Mortimer, Associate Professor of Early Modern History, University of Oxford
  • Nathan Pinkoski, DPhil student, University of Oxford



Encounter between religion, conflict and public expression


Facilitators: John Alderdice, House of Lords and Harris Manchester College, Oxford and Rama Mani, Theatre of Transformation, Zurich


  • Msr. Tomas Halik, Charles University, Prague
  • Yousif al-Khoei, Director of Public Affairs, Al-Khoei Foundation
  • Sister Jayanti, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, UK
  • Johan Leman, Foyer, Molenbeek, Brussels
  • Maleiha Malik, Professor in Law, King's College London, UK
  • Rev. Dr. Mitri Reheb, President, Dar al-Kalima University College, Bethlehem
  • Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian Muslim Relations, University of Edinburgh


The full schedule for the event is available here


The Conference on Public Life and Religious Diversity is grateful for the support of Harris Manchester College, and the Centre for Political Philosophy, Ethics and Religion (CPPER), Charles University, Prague.



Image credit: Shutterstock
2017-09-07 12:30:00

The conference registration has closed

Registration required
Dr Élise Rouméas (Conference Organiser)
2017-09-09 13:00:00
Conference on Public Life and Religious Diversity