The Agency of Agencies: Bureaucracy and the Politics of Religious Freedom

In a further cross-post triggered by Helge Årsheim’s essay on bureaucracy and religion, Richard Amesbury, Chair and Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Clemson University, suggests that administrative decisions are not always as “apolitical” as the administrators would seek to claim.

In his post “Deus in Machina,” Helge Årsheim calls attention to the role civil servants play in shaping religious freedom, grinding out decisions on “the proper legal boundaries of religious beliefs, practices, organizations, buildings, garments and dietary products every day.” Where much recent scholarship on law and religion has pointed to the “juridification” of religion, Årsheim emphasizes its bureaucratization. God is in the machine, and the devil in the details.

One reason this is significant is that bureaucratic, administrative governance takes place largely out of sight, in a zone in which sovereignty is experienced as “soft” and diffuse, a matter less of decision than of discretion. Continue reading

Boredom in the Court

We previously cross-posted an essay by Helge Årsheim on bureaucracy and religion. In the following, also cross-posted from The Religion FactorMéadhbh McIvor, Assistant Professor in Religion, Law and Human Rights at the University of Groningen, responds by reflecting on sex, politics, and legal tedium.

My first thought upon reading Årsheim’s call to engage with legal tedium and bureaucracy was of an academic tool that is equally dull, but highly useful: the trusty footnote. More specifically, I thought of a two-sentence footnote buried in the second chapter of my PhD thesis. Continue reading

Being Boring – How Bureaucrats Determine Religious Freedom

In this guest post, cross-posted with permission from Religion Going Public, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oslo Faculty of Theology, explains that “Civil servants determine the shape and scope of religion in every section of society. Here’s how they get away with it.”

The literature and news cycles on religious freedom tend to be dominated by big, principally important cases, where the foundational principles of liberal democracy are in the balance. Continue reading

Recent queries and comments – 26th August

A Bank Holiday supplement to our weekly round-up

We have made a further compilation of “Quick Answers” to questions which have arisen from searches of, or comments during the past week or so, providing links to our blog posts addressing these issues. The topics covered in these “Saturday Supplements” does not necessarily represent our most-read blogs, but reflects the current interests of readers accessing the site on (mostly) contemporary issues.  Continue reading