Religious Diversity, Judicial Politics, and Institutional Secularization in Europe

Thursday March 17

Room Information

Date Time Location
Thu Mar 17 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM 108N, North House


Prof. Matthias Koenig
Hannah Arendt DAAD Visiting Professor for German and European Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto for the academic year 2010-2011


Religious diversity is challenging historical arrangements of statehood, national identity, and dominant religions throughout Europe. Religious minorities, including a sizeable Muslim migrant population, claim equal rights to freedom of religion, while agnostics insist on their right to freedom from religion. Increasingly, such claims are being articulated in judicial arenas and decided by constitutional courts. This paper analyzes the consequences of judicial politics of religious recognition, focusing on the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), 1959-2010. Highlighting variable outcomes of religious freedom cases over time, across countries and across denominations, it traces how repeat litigation and greater judicial activism have opened nations’ symbolic boundaries, while legitimating state restrictions of the religious field.

Matthias Koenig is full professor of sociology/sociology of religion at the University of Göttingen, Germany. Having studied at the Universities of Hamburg, Princeton (USA), and Marburg and having worked at UNESCO’s division of social sciences, Paris, he holds a Master and a Doctoral degree in sociology from the University of Marburg as well as a habilitation in sociology from the University of Bamberg, Germany. Before joining the University of Göttingen in 2006, Koenig held teaching positions at the Universities of Marburg and Bamberg and, as guest professor, at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes EPHE-Sorbonne) in Paris. He received several research grants and scholarships from the DAAD, the Volkswagen Foundation, and Era-Net/NORFACE and was member of the Junge Akademie at he Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (BBAW). He was the founding editor of UNESCO’s International Journal of Multicultural Societies (IJMS) (now entitled Diversities), is editorial board member of the Social Compass, and advisory board member of the eitschrift für Soziologie and the Institute for World Society Studies (Bielefeld).

Main Sponsor

Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

Co-sponsored by

Joint Initiative for German and European Studies
Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies