A Study of the Semiotic and Narrative Forms of Divine Influence Within Secular Legal Systems
- Julia J. A. Shaw
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Since the Reformation and Enlightenment, the Western world has witnessed the incremental decline of religious influence. Yet, key legal protections and duties incumbent on civilians and state actors in both avowedly secular states and ruling theocracies, predominantly Islamic, are to a lesser or greater extent determined by religious values. Although it is often claimed that the modern secular state encourages the adoption of liberal values and allows for the formulation of general law according to the free will of its people, the historical legacy of law and particularly its synthesis with the Judeo-Christian heritage is apparent. In the UK, the continuing centrality of religion in what purports to be a secular system of laws, is demonstrated by the introduction of elements of Sharia law. In an increasingly culturally-diverse society, the recognition of Islamic law may be interpreted as the tacit acknowledgement of the existing inherent faith influences which continue to inform many legal innovations, and represents an explicit attempt to rebalance the privileging of one set of precepts above another. It is suggested that religion continues to occupy a central position in lawmaking; performing a cultural, political, institutional and, importantly, symbolic role and this is evidenced for instance by the narratives which are imposed on individuals in relation to areas of topical significance such as matrimony, terminal illness, abortion, gender and sexual morality. This paper argues against those pronouncements of the retreat of religion in state affairs and, rather, reveals a set of key structural relations and signifiers which are informed by opinions redolent of, not least of all, a peculiar generic proscriptive religiosity.
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- A Study of the Semiotic and Narrative Forms of Divine Influence Within Secular Legal Systems
International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique
Volume 26, Issue 1 , pp 95-112
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- Julia J. A. Shaw (1)
- Author Affiliations
- 1. School of Law, De Montfort University, Leicester, LE1 9BH, UK