Conference Agenda

RN34_02: Discussing old and new religious topics I
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Sinisa Zrinscak, University of Zagreb, Faculty of Law
Location: BS.4.05A
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Fourth Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road


Abuse as a Barrier to Belonging: Pope Francis’ 2018 Visit to Ireland

Gladys Ganiel

Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom

This paper explores how Pope Francis’ historic August 2018 visit to Ireland exposed the role of the clerical sexual abuse scandals in the decline of the Catholic Church in what was once a stronghold of the faith. The paper includes narrative analysis of how Ireland’s “newspaper of record”, the Irish Times, covered the build-up and the events of Francis’ visit; and a nationally-representative poll commissioned by the author after the visit. In the month of August, 46 percent of articles in the Irish Times about the pope engaged with the clerical sexual abuse crisis in some way, reflecting public indignation about how the Catholic Church and Francis himself had handled abuse. The survey revealed that the most popular view among Irish people was that Francis had not done enough to address abuse, and that the visit had not been a healing time for victims and survivors. While recognising that the reasons for the decline of Catholicism in Ireland are multiple and complex, it argues that the failure of the Church to adequately address the abuse crisis has helped create a barrier to religious belonging that is unprecedented in the history of the Irish state.

Can Atheists be Good Citizens?

Insa Bechert

GESIS - Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences, Germany

The U.S. American Pledge of Allegiance refers to the country as “one nation under God”. Previous research has shown that many Americans feel that atheists, who do not believe in any kind of God, inevitably also do not believe in the set of values perceived as fundamental for being “good citizens”, let alone patriots and, consequently, should not be considered as such. Relationships of churches and states, however, differ cross-nationally. In many European countries, the two spheres are clearly separated. This article examines cross-nationally first, how atheists actually feel about their countries. Second, it examines whether the perceived relevance of belief in God for being a “good citizen” is an American phenomenon, or whether similar exclusionary attitudes towards atheists can be observed in European countries as well. Finally, it explores how relationships of church and state may shape individual attitudes towards atheists.

The results confirm American “prejudices”. Not only in America, but also in the majority of European countries, feelings of national identity appear weaker amongst atheists than among those, who believe in any kind of God. Individual attitudes towards atheists, however, highly depend on the countries’ current and former state-church relationships and the general level of secularization.

For the analyses, this article uses the ONBound database ( which comprises data from almost 280 survey waves with focus on religious and national identities as well as macro-indicators for analyzing relationships of state and church cross-nationally.

Paradise Lost? Discrimination Claims Against Religious Organizations in Switzerland, Germany and ECtHR

Michalina Zofia Preisner

University of Bern, Switzerland

Freedom of religion enjoys special, i.e. stronger than other freedoms, legal protection in national and international regulations. Whereas the scope of this special treatment (e.g. protection of belief, practice or religious organizations), restrictions attached to it (e.g. public order, freedoms of others) and religions that it applies vary across regulations and jurisdictions, the right to religious freedom often yields conflict with antidiscrimination laws. Legal protection of religious freedom allows individuals and groups to claim exemption from equality-oriented antidiscrimination laws. A well-known example of such conflicts of rights is ministerial exemption, the practice of selecting employees for spiritual functions according to the candidates’ religion – while clearly discrimination of other candidates on religious grounds, it guarantees the autonomy of religious organizations vis-à-vis the state. Religious ethos and bond of loyalty refer to the autonomy of employees accepted by religious organizations. For faith-based employees, sexual orientation, seemingly private free-time activities and life decisions as common as divorce may result in termination of the contract. In Germany, where welfare providers related to the two officially recognized churches hire over 1.5mln people, discrimination cases against religious employers reach courts increasingly often. Switzerland, lacking an anti discriminatory law, seems to be a different example. An analysis of court rulings and interviews withe employees shed new light on the special treatment of religion.