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Seminar: Religion’s foundational role for a democratic state and society

Master Ecumenical Studies

Time: Tuesday, 10-12

Room: HG 3.088

Begin: 04/09/2013


The seminar deals with the constitutionally based and effective relations between Christian churches and states. These relations are both expression of Christian self-understanding and society’s “confession” and determination as theocratic or atheistic, religious or secular, as a promoter of a “laïcité positive” or militant laicism. Likewise we touch Jewish and Islamic traditions in the same issue. We work on the thesis that democracy cannot constitute its own base and decisive values. The German judge and legal philosopher Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde affirms: “The liberal secular state lives on premises that it cannot itself guarantee.” This guarantee has to be presupposed as given – as given by religion? The discussion between the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in Munich (January 2004) about moral and preconditions of democracy sets the problem again. This will serve as our starting point for the discussion. The seminar’s participants are kindly invited to explain and evaluate the situation of their churches in the societies they come from. Finally, we will discuss the importance of ecumenism with regard to the relation between church, state and society.


For preparing the seminar it is useful to consult:


  • Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde: State, Society, and Liberty: Studies in Political Theory and Constitutional Law. Berg, New York (1991).
  • Commentary to Böckenförde: Bedford-Strohm, H: Nurturing reason : the public role of religion in the liberal state, in: Dutch Reformed Theological Journal / Nederduitse Gereformeerde Teologiese Tydskrif, vol. 48, no. 1&2, 2007, pp. 25-41. []
  • Jürgen Habermas: Faith and knowledge (2000)
  • Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion, by Pope Benedict XVI / Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Jürgen Habermas (2007).