Author(s): Iain T. Benson
In this incisive and thought-provoking study, legal expert Iain Benson confronts crucial and controversial issues in the relation between religion and to-day's pluralistic, secular state. He reminds us of the original and proper sense of the "secular", not as meaning "anti-religious" but as encompassing without prejudice differing forms of religious belief and disbelief. Analysing recent judicial pronouncements, mainly but not exclusively from his native Canada, Benson demonstrates how this correct understanding of the secular has protected religious rights in the public square by preventing a totalistic state endorsement of any one form of belief. In the second part of his work, Benson draws on the conclusions of leading legal philosophers to show that recognizing the dignity of individuals in no way precludes open, public dissent from their views on such disputed topics as same-sex marriage. Envisaging the development of "a richer conception of diversity and genuine tolerance with an appropriately communitarian focus", Benson also issues an important warning against emerging tendencies to constrict such diversity in the name of a pseudo-liberal uniformity.