Equality is one of the most basic principles of liberalism and of democracy. The principle of equality requires the state to treat all citizens equally and especially to abstain from discriminatory treatment of citizens on grounds of race, gender, or religion. In addition, democratic countries forbid by law discrimination in various areas such as in employment or in education or in entry into public accommodations, whether such discrimination is carried out by individuals, by private organizations or by state agencies.
Many religions do not fully accept the principle of equality as espoused by liberal thought. They may differentiate between believers and non-believers, between members of various ethnic, social or national groups, or between genders. The consequences may be with regard to the ability to participate in various religious activities, to fulfill various ritual or public roles, to receive certain types of training or education, to dress or act in certain ways etc. As a result, religious organizations (such as churches, mosques, synagogues, schools, charitable foundations etc.) may act in ways that are incompatible with the principle of equality.
In the conference we seek to examine this tension from two distinct perspectives, from that of the state and from that of religion. From a state perspective, the phenomena outlined above can lead to confrontation between the liberal state and religion. Activities of religious individuals or organizations may fall under the category of discrimination in employment, in education or in entry into public accommodations. Should the state coerce religious actors into desisting from such discriminatory policies and acts? Should religious actors be immune to such coercion, under the principle of freedom of religion? Should adherence to the principle of equality restrain the actions of religious organizations in the public sphere?
From a religious perspective, we seek to discuss the attitude of religions to the principle of equality. This realm of discussion involves both historical and normative aspects. How do the different religions relate to the idea of equality? How do they relate to equality in specific matters, such as racial equality, gender equality, economic equality etc.? Should religion embrace liberal notions of equality or advocate an alternate vision? Have religions over the course of history contributed to the development of liberal egalitarianism? Can religious thought and discourse contribute today to the positive development of liberal thought in this area?
PAPER SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: These and similar questions will be discussed in an international conference that will be held at Bar-Ilan University School of Law, Ramat-Gan, Israel, on June 9-11, 2015. Submissions are invited on the themes outlined above. An abstract of 500 (max.) words should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than January 15, 2015. Please indicate academic affiliation and attach a short CV. The conference committee will notify applicants of papers acceptance by February 15, 2015. The participants will be required to submit a draft of their papers before the conference. Final papers will be published in the Journal of Law Religion and State subject to review.