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Religious faith and the liberal state

Press release issued: 13 May 2010

The conflict created by the ideals and policies of religion versus the liberal state will be the subject of a public lecture by Professor Lord Raymond Plant, former member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, on Tuesday 18 May.

The shift in the relationship between religion and the liberal state is emblematic of the latter’s inability to mediate fairly between different religions since the passing of the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act, according to Professor Lord Raymond Plant, who will present a lecture on the subject at the University of Bristol on Tuesday May 18.

Recent years have seen a series of high profile cases in which the state, schools and others have had to defend their policies of excluding the expression of religious belief.   Such cases, and the apparent intrusion of law into private life, have prompted debate about how far people must be expected to accept the legitimacy of an authority whose rules conflict with their own.

Hosted by the Bristol Institute of Public Affairs, Lord Plant, former member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Philosophy at King's College London, will seek to unravel the moral and political questions posed by liberalism, including:

- What is it that justifies a liberal political order such that those who hold views that are in some contexts at odds with that order have to defer to it and conform to its rules?

- What is it in the public sphere that privileges liberal beliefs over those of faith communities?

“How is it possible for the liberal to refuse the legitimacy of religious belief in the public realm if liberalism itself is a matter of faith in the legitimacy of some thick moral conceptions such as liberal ideas about freedom, justice and the rule of law?” asks Lord Plant.  

The lecture is the first event in what will be a biennial series based on a generous legacy from the late Derek Zutshi.  It will take place at 5.30pm at the Banton Lecture Theatre, Social Sciences Complex, Priory Road, University of Bristol.  For further details and to arrange a booking, contact Nicola Fry on 0117 928 8515 or

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