, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 1-6
Date: 26 Jan 2011

Introduction: Religion and Freedom of Expression

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Tensions between religion and freedom of expression have a long pedigree. Given the central place that religious faith has occupied in the history of humanity and given the special status humanity has ascribed to the sacred and the divine, it could hardly have been otherwise. Contemporary controversies concerning the relative claims of religion and free expression might therefore be seen as no more than the latest episodes in an argument that has been conducted for two or more millennia. But the history of that argument is a changing history and its present character differs from its past. While in some societies the shielding of religion from free expression continues to be defended as a means of maintaining truth and preventing its corruption, that form of defence has been largely abandoned in western societies. In those societies, religious diversity is now accepted as a legitimate state of affairs as well as a matter of fact, so that, at least in public argument, no denomination an