State Legitimacy and Religious Accommodation: The Case of Sacred Places

Janosch Prinz*, Enzo Rossi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper, we put forward a realist account of the problem of accommodation of conflicting claims over sacred places. Our argument takes its cue from the empirical finding that modern, Western-style states necessarily mould religion into shapes that are compatible with state rule. At least in the context of modern states, there is no pre-political morality of religious freedom that states ought to follow when adjudicating claims over sacred spaces. Liberal normative theory on religious accommodation which starts from the assumption of a pre-political morality of religious freedom is therefore of limited value. As an alternative, we suggest that the question of contested sacred places should be settled with reference to the purposes of the state, at least as long as one is committed to the existence of modern states. If one finds the treatment of religion by the state unsatisfactory, our argument provides a pro tanto reason for seeking alternative forms of political organization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-22
JournalJournal of Law, Religion and State
Issue number1
Early online dateApr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2021

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