RELIGIOUS DISCOURSE IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE

David Blaikie, Diana Ginn

Abstract


Full, open, and civilized discourse among citizens is fundamental to the life of a liberal democracy. It seems trite to assert that no discourse should be prohibited or excluded simply because it is grounded in religious faith or employs religious beliefs to justify a particular position.1 Yet there are those who contend that it

is improper for citizens to use religious arguments when debating or deciding issues in the public square,2 that metaphorical arena where issues of public policy are discussed and contested. In this article we challenge this position, examining the various arguments that are put forward for keeping public discourse secular, arguments that when citizens explicitly ground their social and political views in their religious beliefs, this is divisive, exclusionary, and ultimately antithetical to the liberal democratic state. We maintain that none of these arguments are persuasive.


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