Accommodating Religious Law

There are ways of accommodating religious law by avoiding contentious legislation so that State law doesn’t conflict with it.

There are legal issues to be resolved to avoid conflict with people who wish to observe religious law if it is not formally recognised.  Many people would argue that a completely non-religious system of State law is the ideal solution.  Whilst that ensures equal treatment of all religions, in that it takes no account of any religion, care must still be taken to avoid unnecessary trampling upon cultural sensitivities – otherwise some elements of society would have problems with its acceptability, as discussed later in this chapter (

The French ban on face-covering, for example, has been seen as a challenge to Islam and has caused resentment and riots.  It was incompatible with accommodating religious law.  An Economist report, Trouble in Trappes, started with the strapline “Violence erupts over the controversial burqa ban” and described “two nights of rioting in a single town” which “set the whole of France on edge”.

Some adherents of a religious sect may choose to be bound by judgements of a religious court – even though its validity is not recognised by the State.  This has no impact on anyone else in that society, given the two provisos that the State law is not broken and that people are free to leave the sect.  The State’s refusal to recognise religious law need not prevent the latter from being used, but the lack of formal recognition might seem like a discourtesy to those who feel that religious law is important.


Next Section

This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/5333.htm.